Tree Climber Meets Jesus

luke 18 sycamore tree2 Zacchaeus never joined a tree climbing club nor knew what constituted the safe way to climb or the equipment to use. He simply climbed a tree like a child.

Dr. Luke with the artistry of his pen paints a vivid illustration of this scene beginning with a tree set in the city of Jericho.  Zacchaeus the “wee little man” and Jesus had a divine appointment unbeknownst to the crowd loyally following and praising God for the healing of the blind man. This “wee little man” ran ahead, climbed the sycamore tree and waited. How often do we equate incidents as just coincidence when Jesus in eternity past has orchestrated our meeting with him and pre-arranges to meet us where we are. Zacchaeus was that man “today.”  Is today your day to meet Jesus?

Jesus knew of Zacchaeus even if Zacchaeus did not know him. He had one component that would open his introduction and that was he was curiosity. Although the city dwellers held the “wee little man” in contempt  and morally despised this did not stop him. He had heard but not seen the Healer who had just touched a blind man and wanted like the disciples to understand “who is this man that can cure blindness?”

As Jesus passed by he looked up into the tree into the eyes of this despised tax collector. Imagine the scene with Zacchaeus looking down and Jesus looking up while the crowd looks on. Their eyes meet and then the words are spoken  just like on the TV Show  “come on down!” Instantly the sweet tenor of the  people who are accompanying Jesus changes from acceptance to icy stares and glares. It is then that their hearts are revealed. Doesn’t Jesus know  Zacchaeus is a sinner!  But, Jesus has not come to heal the righteous but the sinner. Just as the elite religious leaders  hear words of  compassion but they do not change so it is here. Their hearts are hardened to the needy. They are incensed that he would not only welcome Zacchaeus but accompany him to his home!

How like the onlookers we are! We see ourselves as perfect pious believers when in reality we are as black in our sin as Zacchaeus was. The crowd reacted with grumbling but Zacchaeus reacted with joy! Jesus ignored the gossip of the crowd and touched the heart of one man for eternity.  Has Jesus touched your heart this day? Have you welcomed him with joy and a changed heart and focus?

Storms as Life Lessons

psalm 37 self or god2Yesterday as we were helping a young couple pack and move, their 10 mth old was wrestling with himself on the floor. He wanted to sit up but no one was helping him. He just kept persevering and before he knew it there he was in a sitting position. It was a vivid illustration of how we often strive to achieve something and we seem to be alone in our struggle. God lets us struggle and when we find victory we are filed with joy just as this little was beaming from ear to ear. It is then that God reaches down with his still small voice and says “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

As I have been teaching each Saturday night I noted that the stories that have been chosen for me are all about wind, waves and storms. So as we compared Jonah, the disciples in Matt 8 and Matt 14 we noted how in each case the wind and waves sought to overturn the boats. Jonah’s storm was a storm of correction and his pride led him to this disastrous storm. But, even in we saw the truth that God will take what is bad and use it to accomplish His will and His purpose for good. One of the boys asked why the sailors believed Jonah’s God was the true God and the answer is that it was only when they saw the wind and waves cease that they knew and worshiped the God of Jonah.  How often are we like this. We say we have to see much like the Pharisees wanted a sign from heaven. The same thing happened with the disciples.  God sent them into a storm so that they might know and worship His Son. But, since they did not learn the lesson, Jesus sent them into a second pre-arranged perfect storm. It was only then that they fell upon their faces and worshiped.

Why is that we have to weather storms and sometimes even repeat them? The baby’s striving and Jonah’s struggle  is an illustration of how hard we try to do things on our own. Sometimes God lets us struggle in the storm and sometimes he comes to rescue us. It all depends on where we are in our faith walk. The disciples show us how dull we are to learn the lesson God wants us to learn and so he sends us through another perfect storm.

Oh that we might learn from our struggles and hear the words of praise from our Lord. Oh that we might learn the lesson in the first storm and fall upon our faces and worship him. Where are we? Are we in the perfect storm struggling like the disciples against the wind? Are we like the sailors who struggled so as to not dump Jonah overboard?

Lord Save Me!

matt 14 j+ save meThis  is  the  second  time  the  disciples  have  witnessed  first-hand  the  power  of  the  Christ  in  a  storm.  In  Matt  8  the  disciples  unsuccessfully  battle  a  storm  and  Jesus  sleeps  through  it  all.  Being  awakened  he  commands  the  wind  and  the  sea  to  cease  and  it  does.  Then  the  disciples  ask  “What  sort  of  person  is  this?”    Now  as  they  once  again  are  unsuccessful  in  another  storm  Jesus  comes  walking  to  them  on  the  water.  This  time  after  the  wind  ceases  they  worship  him  and  say  “Truly  you  are  the  Son  of  God.”

As  they  ponder  what  has  just  transpired  the  disciples  hear  Jesus  ask  Peter  ‘why  did  you  doubt?’    Perhaps  James  remembers  the  disciples  recounting  this  story  and  the  truth  principle  derived  from  it:    “the  one  who  doubts  is  like  a  wave  of  the  sea,  blown  and  tossed  around  by  the  wind.”    Unlike  Jonah  who  knew  what  God  could  and  would  do in Nineveh,  the  disciples  needed  a  faith  lesson.  Jonah  did  not  call  out  to  the  Lord  until  he  was  “IN”  the  midst  of  the  fish’s  belly.  Peter called out  to  Jesus  “ON”  the  water.  How many storms does Jesus have to bring into our lives before we stop and worship him? When  we  face  a  storm  that  God  has  pre-arranged  do  we  wait until we are in the midst of the storm, do we doubt  or  do  we  have  faith  that  the  Son  of  God  will  immediately  save  us?  Jesus save us should be our cry.

Laboring in the Vineyard or Sitting on the Hillside with Jonah?

prov 18 laboring vineyard2Just as there are two sides to a coin there are two sides to every story. Note vs 1 of Proverbs 18: “One who has isolated himself seeks his own desires;he rejects all sound judgment.” (NET). Note this is self-imposed not God imposed as in the case of Moses (Ex 3:1), the plain for Ezekiel (Ezek 3:22), the wilderness for John (Luke 1:80), Arabia for Paul (Gal 1:17) and the wilderness for His Blessed Son (Mark 1). And that is where we find the two sides to every story.

There are those who seek isolation due to a need or desire to grow closer to God but vs 1 clearly indicates that this is not the case. These are people who have a “Jonah complex.” They fail to see the ramifications of their isolation and God’s plan and purpose for their life. Jonah really did not want the sailors to know his God, nor did he want the Ninevites to be saved. That is the problem with the self-isolationist and we would be wise to beware of this for God has given us the gift of the gospel message that we might reach the world for Christ. Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews reminded us to not abandon meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” [Heb 10:25]

The question before us is: do we too have a “Jonah complex” or do we see that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are we laboring in the vineyard or sitting on the hillside with Jonah?

Blessed Beyond Measure

matt 13 blessed beyond measure2Matthew records this chapter that we might see several points. One is that although there are prophets who predicted the grace that would come or righteous people; they longed to see what we see but did not see it, and to hear what we hear but did not hear it. We stop and ask why because were not prophets holy men of God who through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit spoke from God? If men were righteous why did they too not hear and see? What hindered them? Can we learn from this as to why we who claim Christ may also not see or hear? Or was it for such a time as then but for us who live now there is a greater gift of understanding.

The clue is most likely found in this. These of old “had the types, shadows, and prophecies…they desired to see the great Salvation, the Consolation of Israel, but did not see it, because the fullness of time was not yet come.” (M. Henry) But it has come now and we who live now in this century are blessed beyond measure for ‘although we have not seen him, we love him and believe in him..’ [1Pe 1:8] We have been blessed by the indwelling illuminating Holy Spirit who will teach, guide and lead us and the full Word of God that is the revelation of God Himself. The question is this: do we recognize this great blessing?

Ps 71-72 “Wisdom from a Senior Saint”

psalm 71 senior advice2Our culture is impressed upon being young and keeping aging at bay. It is pressed upon us from all angles of life. Sadly too often we view “gray-headed seniors” as both a financial burden and a care to society rather than a trove of wisdom. The elder psalmist rises to speak to us about how you and I can  learn to live a godly life to the fullest. As Jesus said “he who has ears to hear better listen.”

The elder psalmist advises us to begin early now cultivating habits of hungering and thirsting for righteousness for this is where you will find true satisfaction.  See life as an opportunity to study to show yourself approved and to establish a life of prayer. As you do all of this cultivate a life of praise and joy.  See retirement not as a stage of “R&R” but a stage of opportunities to serve. We should see “rest” as what we will do in eternity not now. President John F Kennedy is remembered for this saying: “”ask not what your country can do for youask what you can do for your country.” Believers need to be asking not what others can do for us but what we can do for our church, our community, and our families. Steven Cole boldly challenges us with this statement: “If you’re not involved in some kind of Christian service, you’re too self-centered.

Remember this is the time to prepare so we can proclaim to the next generation. Are we doing it?

Steven  Cole:

Be a Blessing Today

Matt 11 you were J+2As John the Baptist sat languishing in the Roman prison after he encountered and chastised Herod, Jesus took time to assure him and his followers that He was indeed “the One”, the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus said look and listen and see the evidence that I am the Christ as he recounts one miracle after another.

It is time for us as well to look and see what Christ has done when the gospel message full of grace and mercy is preached and received. Truly the blind see—that is the spiritually blind are given spiritual insight; the lame walk—those who are weak are given strength; the lepers are cleansed—those who are spiritually dead in their transgressions and sins are made alive; the deaf hear—ears are opened to hear the truth of the gospel message; the dead are raised—the spiritually dead are given new life; the poor have the good news proclaimed—and this is the message of the gospel as it goes forth. And that is why Jesus inserts this beautiful beatitude in vs 6 “blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me!”

From that point on Jesus reflects on John’s preparation for Him. This is a lesson for us that we too should bless those who have prepared the way for us. Who in our past prepared the way for us to receive Jesus? Stop and ponder. Then offer words of praise for those who were instruments of God to bring you to salvation.

Who brought you to Jesus? Bless them today for their work of faith.

Hurry Up God!

Psalm 69 70 hurry up god2How often are we weary in a trial and we just want life to return to normal. But what is normal? Is it a stress free lifestyle? How many of us are really stress free? How many of us face trials hoping to see God at work? How many of us live like we truly understand God is at work even while we are not aware of His intended purpose? How many of us see life as a beautiful tapestry being woven? Probably if truth be known, not many of us. King David wanted his trial to end. He just wanted life to return to normal. How did he handle it? Peek into his private journal and see his thoughts.

Psalm 69-70 God are you paying attention? 
The psalmist uses hyperbole to talk about his situation. His first picture is that of drowning, second is in quicksand and although he cries for help he finds none. He is exhausted, and his voice is raspy and hoarse. He is in despair;  Is there no hope? He is weary of looking for God’s help because those who hate him are so numerous.
The haters: more numerous than the hairs on his head…[really???  a bit of over-exaggeration here in my estimation, but how often is this how I see a trial?]
His prayer Please God don’t let others be disgraced because of me. Don’t let them carry my shame as he suffers humiliation for God’s name’s sake, and is in fact disgraced even in the family (short memories here: remember when David went to where the Israelites were fighting and how his brothers taunted him..go home little shepherd—these are those same brothers–lesson for us is this: how quickly we forget how God has worked in the past) 
 And so he once again turns to his only hope: God. Again he uses a picture of drowning, and the pit …he is dying physically. He implores God to not turn a deaf ear to his cry, Do not ignore me, Father, don’t you see…I am in deep trouble. I need a rescue plan.(Note God: I need Your rescue plan!) He asks: God can you see my life?  insulted, humiliated, disgraced, a defeated heart? Seeking sympathy and empathy he finds none.
How does he react: vengeance!  let those who are doing this be ensnared even as they sit down to eat. Let them be blinded! Make them have epileptic seizures! God pour out judgment upon them, hold them accountable for their sins. Don’t vindicate them, wipe them out. [Is this how I pray? Is my trial so grievous that I pray for my enemies to face certain death? I hope not! instead may I pray that their hearts be softened and repent] 
Finally after a long diatribe he relents and turns to God for his relief and in that moment of time he begins again praising God, thanking God for he knows that God hears his heart, and this will all be righted in the end at the throne of God and those who are loyal will be found righteous and blessed. His bottom line is this:Hurry up God! Let’s get this trial over so my life will return to normal. 

Time to ponder these thoughts from David’s journal and ask: how do I face trials of life? Do I count it all joy; remain steadfast and learn contentment? Do I remember that trials are given to prove my character and to nott be astonished as if it were some strange phenomenon. Do I petition persistently as the widow did before the unjust judge? And lastly:  “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” [Phi 4:6] trusting the truth that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” [Rom 8:28]

It all boils down to trust and that is what God asks me to do even when I do NOT understand.