A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:2-4
For a couple of months now, the story of Zacchaeus has been lingering on my mind. I had planned to write on it sometime in early October last year, but I kept pushing it aside. But the Holy Spirit kept at it and hence I had to surrender.
For the most part, his story might seem far removed from our own reality. But looking closer… you realize that in so many ways than one his story is mostly like your story! Lets face it, Zacchaeus had much going against him than for him. He was public enemy number one; a tax collector. He was short; everyone around him had a better view…meaning he had to do with the second-hand eyewitness account of what was happening around him. He was a curious man; he wanted to see who Jesus was…not so much as to know him as a friend but rather as the new kid on the block. And above all, he was a wealthy man.
Let’s face it. In life, you and I will encounter difficult situations. Like Zacchaeus, you may suffer from many shortcomings not of your own making…but others which are self-made. You may be limited by a physical, emotional or mental disability which continually hinder your progress. But God is saying to you and I today… GO THE EXTRA MILE and I will meet you along the way. Use what is at your disposal to gain what you are missing. Like Zacchaeus… there is a sycamore tree for each and everyone of us. Climb yours… STAND TALL AND BE COUNTED. Jesus is coming your way!
A voice is heard in Rama, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. Matthew 2:18
Two days ago, I happened to stumble through the above passages twice in one reading. First, I read them from Jeremiah 31:15, then moments later, I read them again from Matthew. Of course with Christmas round the corner, we all need to remind ourselves of Christ, Our Saviour’s birth from scripture.
But while the birth of Jesus brought so much joy for some, for others it brought pain and great loss… the demise of little boys. Boys who could probably have been Jesus’ neighbours and playmates. Just imagine… when Jesus came back from hiding in Egypt, most of his agemates were all dead and gone. Yes… killed by Herod in the hope that Jesus was among them.
Just like during Christ’s birth, today STOP TO REMEMBER those mothers whose pain and loss will only be magnified this Christmas as they miss their sons and daughters… especially those who are out in war or the fallen heros. STOP AND SAY a prayer and remember…Christmas just like in the actual Christ’ birth will not necessarily bring joy to everyone.
STOP TO REMEMBER…those voices weeping in the land.
Let no debt remaining outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
Most of us are IN THE RED…. financially speaking that is. Some of us are able to manage our debts well and pay back what we owe to our creditors. While a few of us do also struggle with paying back the debts owed. But Paul reminds us of a different kind of debt. In essence, even the most richest of us… financially speaking can never be on the other side. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, the continuing debt to love is never ending. Which means you and I are and will ever be IN THE RED.
Look around you… there is someone out there who needs to be loved. You are indebted to them. As we approach Christmas, we are reminded of the great love accorded to us by God, the Father when He send Jesus to pay back the debt we could not pay so in turn we may extend the same love to others.
As you and I manage our other debts… may we remember that God always judges us most on how we manage the debt of loving our fellow human being.
Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,’ he said ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on you fellow-servant just as I had on you? In anger his maser turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he paid back all her owed. Matthew 18:32-34
If you make the Most High your dwelling- even the Lord, who is my refuge- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near you. Psalm 91:9-10
The other day I got to read Psalm 91 but incredibly it was the two verses above that drew my attention. For most of us Psalms 91 speaks volumes. But for me… in a different way God made me see another point: THE DWELLING PLACE and my choice in it either as a permanent residence or an occasional visitor.
You see, when things are going our way, our plans are following into place, our enemies are at peace with us… we tend to stray away from our DWELLING PLACE. We find pleasure in other temporary places which seem to offer the best deals and service. There seems to be no danger around us.
Then trouble strikes! We are bruised and broken. Then we remember…yes, there was a place for hiding. There was a shelter in SOMEONE greater than our troubles. What the Lord wanted me to understand was; as His Child, my home was with and in Him. I am not a guest but a permanent residence in His DWELLING PLACE. But I have to make the choice to stay and enjoy all the benefits that comes with the place.
Maybe like me, you have strayed from THE DWELLING PLACE. COME BACK HOME… the FATHER IS WAITING!!!!
When the men got up to leave, they looked down towards Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Genesis 18:16-17
These words… “Shall I hide… seemed to have struck a deep cord when I read them once again this morning. I mean… this is God thinking and thinking aloud for that matter! What He was about to do to Sodom was already decided…but there was a moment of hesitation. God wasn’t about to surprise Abraham with the aftershocks of the destroyed Sodom. No…He hesitated. Why? Because what He had with Abraham was special. It was a SAVOURY FRIENDSHIP! A friendship which was pleasant and enjoyable. Yes…God enjoyed His friendship with Abraham more than Abraham could every know. His opinion on what God was about to do mattered. His suggestions or requests were not lightly taken into consideration.
Lets go down the ages…. its you and me. God is thinking…He is thinking aloud for that matter! But….have we heard what He is planning to do? Much of what I read in the Bible is God thinking aloud. He is still the same God who wants to enjoy A SAVOURY FRIENDSHIP with us His children. He is not will to do things before He passes the message to His children. He desires to hear our opinion in the matter. He is willing to stoop further than we can every imagine. What He was willing to do for Abraham inspite of Sodom’s great sin…He is willing to do for us…inspite of the fallen world we live in.
Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:32
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrew 11:1
Just imagine yourself unable to move your own weight around….just for a moment. Then again, imagine a little change in your situation because you have something to help support your weight…that’s right; crutches. For someone in need, crutches can seem like a god-send.You see for a long while, I tried to convince myself that what I had was better than not having at all. In the past 2 years, my faith had been tested and stretched to the limit. My faith had been shaken and turned inside out…in a sense…my faith had been exposed.
And because of this…my faith was sure….but it lacked the certainty of the unseen. My hope was still intact…but my vision was distorted. As I began to seek the Lord about my faith’s condition, He didn’t seem to be in a hurry to answer…. not until recently. His answer came in as a shock to my system: “YOUR FAITH IS ON CRUTCHES.”
In otherwise, the Lord didn’t come to offer me good wishes and hope for a speedy recovery something that I had been seeking from Him all throughout my shakings. No…instead He was offering me more:FAITH WITHOUT CRUTCHES…a NOW faith. Just like Jesus had asked the man who had been an invalid for 38 years… He is asking you and I today. “Do you want to get well?” And I suspect your answer as a good as mine. Yes, Lord!
Your faith need not be on crutches. He is saying to you and I today;
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was RAHAB, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was RUTH, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. Matthew 1:5-6
The Gospel of Matthew begins the life of Jesus with his geneology. It introduces Jesus backwards by way of showing us his lineage. And while some women are mentioned along with their husbands in his geneology, two of them particularly stands out. RAHAB and RUTH. They are part of Our Lord’s earthly lineage not by accident, but AGAINST THE ODDS.
You see, both of them were foreigners; one a prostitute and the other, a widow. In the natural, where they were in life seemed prove enough of the future they were likely to face. Rahab must have already given up hope of ever finding a man who could love her for who she really was. She knew that she was no husband material. Ruth on the other hand, had clung to her mother-in-law, Naomi out of a deep loyalty as a way of honoring what she had with her son. No, another marriage was nowhere near her mind.
But AGAINST THE ODDS, the Lord brought opportunity in both their lives which needed a RADICAL OBEDIENCE. And although as foreigners God was as much removed from their everyday reality as can possibly be, when opportunity came knocking they both obeyed without a second thought.
Maybe that you today….God is asking you to do something AGAINST THE ODDS. There are no promises of a grand future….but that might just be what you might miss by not OBEYING. It might be someone in your lineage…they laid the foundation against the odds and now you are reaping the harvest. God wants you and I to look backwards and be thankful for those against the odds moments and He is also calling us to go ahead and do the right thing against the odds to give the future generation something to look back as Our Lord Jesus did and hence move forward with a grateful heart, against the odds.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collect stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Luke 18:10-13
We are all guilty of it. An assumed sense of INNOCENCE…even before God who in actual fact knows more than we are willing to give or acknowledge. It all started in the Garden of Eden. Adam was so over the moon when God brought him the most beautiful thing he had ever seen – Eve, his wife. For the first time in his existence, he had found someone who truly resembled and complimented him in many ways. His appreciation of her is fully seen in his words:
“This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.” Genenis 2:23
But its not long after those words are declared do we see a sudden change of heart. Eve is not all she seems to be, Adam tries his best to convince God. Of course, she is quilty and he can only be GUILTY OF INNOCENCE …. “This woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Gen 3:12
Just like Adam, it is so easy to full into that trap of the guilt of innocence. We look at ourselves with a less critical eye but we are quick to judge others and pass on a deadly sentence. We are the first to pick the stone of condemnation … yet in reality we are guilt of a greater sin than the guilt one. As Jesus reminds us in the above parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, it is always safe to stand before God as the GUILTY ONE and find mercy than play safe with the GUILT OF INNOCENCE and find only condemnation.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 18:14
A censor according to Oxford dictionary is: person authorizedo to examine letters, books and films etc…, and remove or ban anything regarded as harmful.
We live in a fallen world. It doesn’t take you a day or two before you hear that someone somewhere has just put themselves in the spotlight because of the words of their mouth. Yes….the WORDS OF THEIR MOUTH. Most of what is publicized or receives much public attention is when words are overly used or abused. One wrong sentence or phrase and one’s life is suddenly ruined or permanently damaged.
It is interesting to note that most of us are careless with our words from time to time. And hence, our greatest efforts to be courteous and civil are always being put to the test. For example, after being married for a while, a couple suddenly begins to be careless with their words. Before long, words that were unthinkable get exchanged in the hit of the moment. Teen children begin talking back to their parents etc.
But the Psalmist did not trust in his own ability to always keep his cool. He needed a HEART CENSOR. He needed the Lord to examine his heart and his words. He allowed the Lord’s full access into his heart’s affairs because he understood that when God had access then only good could come out from his mouth. If you and I could allow the HEART CENSOR into our hearts today, we will removed all those little and seemingly harmless ways that can still cause much pain and heartache when not dealt with sooner.
Its my prayer that you and I will allow our hearts to go through the test because at the end…there is always a reward for a censored heart!
The tongue has the power of lifeand death, and those who love it will eat of its fruit. Proverbs 18:21