authority, blessed, broken people, called, compassion, discernment, evangelism, faith, fasting, follow Him, forgiveness, humility, Jesus Christ, seeking Him

Being Short of Stature, #86

“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.”

Luke 19:5-6, (context, vv. 1-9)

I see no problem with assigning this story to a Sunday school lesson. It’s imaginative, witty and seriously funny. Kids enjoy the story, especially when the teacher decides to use flannelgraphs. If the teacher is any good at all it can verge on the hilarious. I must admit I enjoy it far more than Leviticus or Numbers.

Just moments before, Jesus–who was travelling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, had just healed a blind man (Luke 18:35-43), who was wildly enthusiastic about receiving his sight–a crowd had stopped to watch and wonder. The road was a busy one to begin with, so the clog of people was definitely unusual.

Then there was Zacchaeus, “a head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.” (Luke 19:2-4, Message).

There something funny here. First–he’s so short that he looks for a way to see Jesus. That tells me that he’s a true seeker, and he’s resourceful. Second–he climbs the tree in a robe, which is a bit challenging I suppose. It does seem he’s lacking in the dignity department. But he really doesn’t care what others think of him.

For years I’ve thought about this story. I’ve come to see some things that have blessed me, and I hope they will somehow help you to climb the tree of discipleship.

There are many branches on a sycamore tree, which made it easy to climb. I would suggest something to you. I’d like to think of these as the ways we see Jesus. The different disciplines are attached to a singular trunk, perhaps that’s obvious.

Perhaps that trunk is our prayer life. It seems that each of the list below will have that in common. In all of these branches that make-up our discipleship, prayer is truly our definite beginning point. Below are the branches we can climb out on, but remember, they’re all attached to prayer:

  • Meditation
  • Fasting
  • Fellowship
  • Chastity
  • Submission/Obedience
  • Evangelism
  • Solitude
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence

Let’s be very clear. Zacchaeus climbed the tree only to see Jesus. These disciplines are not the Christian’s life. Zacc. only climbed to see Jesus; he didn’t get attached, or find a comfortable spot up there. He didn’t build a tree fort. He only used the branches to see Jesus.

Fasting, or prayer or meditation are incredibly useful. But they’re only ways that we can see him. There comes a point where we come down to be with Jesus, and have a feast with our Lord. When he calls our name, it’s time to climb down. (Luke 19:5-6).

“I wish there were more of us who did not mind being laughed at if only what we did helped us to see Jesus.”

(Maclaren’s comments)

Standard
blind, broken people, compassion, desperation, faith, healing, Jesus Christ, miracles, power, seeking Him

Blind and Desperate, #85

Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus, by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861

“Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

42 “Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.”

Luke 18:40-43

Tradition tells us that his name is Bartimaeus. This man, led by others, plopped on a mat by a curb, that’s where he will hold out a basket to collect coins. Hopefully, he would do well, and if not–well there will always be tomorrow–another black and meaningless day. Is this is as good as it’ll ever get?

The crowd around him starts to get more and more excited, and this man, who is very much attuned to the noise of the things around him, tries to pick out conversations, he wants to understand. He keeps listening, and the voices get louder and louder, and he finally pieces together what’s happening.

He finally hears one of them shout out, “It’s the Messiah! It’s him–he has come!” At that moment he too stands up, and begins to shout himself. But his shouting gets louder, and it turns into screams. Within seconds he’s out-of-control, and wild and insane. He releases years of pent up anger and frustration.

The crowd, who was once preoccupied by Jesus’ interesting entourage, now tries hard to quiet this wild dervish down. But he quite mad by now, completely out-of-control. His deranged screams are those of man pushed totally beyond reason.

The original Greek text describes two different words in the New Testament.

The first word used by the crowd is used as a cry for assistance, and deliverance. It’s basically a “respectable” kind of a shout for help. Loud, but still within reason. Earsplitting maybe, but still aware of itself and yet somewhat respectable.

But the second kind of scream, isn’t the regular ‘run-of-the-mill’ kind, rather it’s the scream of someone extremely disturbed. It is wild, primal–something animalistic, shrieking, unearthly, something that’s very disturbing. It’s the cry when an animal goes berserk and in pain, chews off its leg that’s caught in a steel trap. It’s much more than loud, it’s a scream from someone that’s completely out of control.

Dear friend, this is not a human scream. He’s far, far past that point.

Jesus is completely in control. He’s not disturbed, shocked or offended–he’s not fazed by this awful darkness of this desperate man. He orders that he be brought to him. At that moment, all eyes are glued to Jesus and this blind man. I have to believe a hush fell over everyone, quiet enough for them to hear the conversation.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks that question, and it seems an unreal thing to ask. And yet Jesus speaks it into this man’s wild, raving, out-of-control pain. It was Jesus who calmed the turbulent seas; he is now reaching into this man’s incredible darkness. “What do you want?” It’s a question that must be asked.

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.”

Jesus calmly announces to the man that his faith has saved him. At that instant Bartimaeus sees. That’s all that was needed.

I really need to ask you this–How far will you go, how loud will you get? How many people will you ignore to reach your Savior and your Healer? How insistent will you become? How outrageous will you get to see Jesus reach in and touch your need?

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”

Joni Eareckson Tada

Standard
compassion, faith, healing, Jesus Christ, leprosy, lordship, seeking Him

The Other Nine, #80

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:17-19, (context, vv. 11-19)

He was the unlikely one. Samaritans were at the bottom of the spiritual “food chain.” He was only included in the group because he also was a leper–a person’s religion meant nothing. He was a leper first and foremost, and after all, they do say that “misery loves company.”

The group of ten stood far away, so they had to yell. They “called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (verse 13).

The text implies that Jesus never touched them, which is somewhat unusual because Jesus usually did. Their healing was a bit odd as well, as they were healed as they traveled to see the priest. That was one of the many duties the priest had to do, Leviticus 14:2-32.

So it seems that this particular healing wasn’t exactly instantaneous, but something gradual. But still, it required faith, but I have to believe that these guys may have expected something a little more. (But having faith sometimes, isn’t what we expect.)

The ex-leper, a.k.a. the Samaritan, returns and comes back to the One who healed him. The previous verses tell us that he fell at Jesus’ feet. Now tell me–was he “disobeying” the Lord’s command to go to the priest? I’m not so sure. When we consider that he was a Samaritan, and not really part of the Jewish religion or rites, it might make some sense.

He’s not rebuked by Jesus. Instead Jesus turns and in a way, lavishes praise on him. Maybe there is an application here to those we consider to be “outside” of our faith. Sometimes rules get broken by those who we consider on the margins–they seem to be external to our religious sensibilities.

“Your faith has made you well,” is Jesus’ evaluation; he recognizes the essentials that are necessary. Jesus understands the reality of this man’s faith in him–and it’s that faith which has becomes the conduit for his healing.

“Christ will always accept the faith the puts its trust in Him.”

    Andrew Murray

Standard
abide, discernment, disciples, faith, intimacy, Jesus Christ, security, seeking Him, transformation, voice of God

Do You Hear Him? #75

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Luke 10:27-28, (context vv. 22-30)

Being secure means being fully in Christ’s hand. Some might argue about the doctrine of Eternal Security vs. becoming apostate, and losing one’s salvation. Whatever your position on this, I trust that you are his–and you really do hear his voice.

In 1982, I sat in a theology class where the teacher taught the opposite of security. He believed and taught that the believer, if he wasn’t careful, could lose their eternal life. Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about this–I confess my motive was concern, mixed with fear and doubt.

This particular passage both bothered, and comforted me. Many think that these verses are the clearest statement to guarantee a believer’s safety. And that our salvation could never be lost.

This passage declares that salvation is a gift, and it’s not something that is somehow earned. It can’t be attained by my effort. Salvation is Jesus’ precious and holy handout to the undeserving, it’s not a reward for good behavior.

Jesus makes it very clear, “they will never perish.” He gives a security to each who authentically believes him.

“No one can snatch them out of my hand.” In the original Greek (the language used in the original text) the word for “snatch” means to rescue, or to seize by force. The old KJV uses the word “pluck.” These are all very potent words and thoughts–we dare not minimize them to fit our wishes or personal theology.

For the most part, I think that all of this is contingent on a single phrase–“my sheep hear my voice.” Perhaps hearing is the critical part of this verse. The true believer is a listener, it’s what sets us apart–we hear his voice, and he seems to be always speaking to the sincere seeker.

Do you really hear him? Are you truly listening? The Word and quiet prayer really become your way to know, and discover what he wants you to do, today.

“God’s voice is still and quiet, and easily buried under an avalanche of clamour.”

     Charles Stanley

 

Standard
blessed, broken people, called, decision, faith, intimacy, Kingdom of God, rest, seeking Him

Mary Knows Best, #73

“The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, 42 but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42, (context vv. 38-42)

I grew up in America’s rural dairyland–the great state of Wisconsin, with its cheese and bratwurst. Our high-school classes included Agronomy and Animal husbandry. We were taught how to judge cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. I know the differences between a holstein and a brown swiss. To this day, I know what to look for if you need to buy or breed farm animals. Amazing, huh?

I remember our field trips to visit the different farms. I remember once seeing a cow who had a plexiglass “window” that you could see into a cow’s four stomachs, and watch hay as it was being digested. Useful stuff.

The sisters both loved Jesus, of that, I have no doubt. But Martha did the work, and Mary only sat and listened. It was Jesus who understood what was going on. He discerned the frustration of Martha, and knew the eagerness of Mary. Jesus saw inside. He understood them both completely.

He understands your heart, and mine. His sees us as clearly as one would look through a window pane, and he knows everything there is to know. And yet–he will never condemn you. His love for you is limitless, and forever; it won’t ever change, even on your worst days.

One thing means one thing. Not two things, or three. One thing.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”

Psalm 27:4

“When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing…come, follow Me.” 

Luke 18:22

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

Philippians 3:13-14

We must discern what is best. We must look, decide, and judge what needs to take precedence over other things. How and what we decide determines everything. We each get to pick, and to choose, and then we get to live with the consequences. The repercussions of our decision reverberate throughout our whole life, and into the lives of others.

“The one thing needful evidently is that which Mary chose — that good part which should not be taken away from her. Very clearly this was to sit at Jesus’ feet, and hear his word.”

CH Spurgeon

Our decisions determine our destiny. You and I will make a choice. Will you work, or will you sit? You must decide what you should do. I strongly suggest that you decide wisely.

Will you decide to sit at his feet today?

“The way to get the revival is to begin at the Master’s feet; you must go there with Mary, and afterwards you may work with Martha.”

CH Spurgeon

Standard
Bible promises, blind, disciples, faith, follow Him, Jesus Christ, light, seeking Him

This Light’s for You, #64

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

John 8:12, (context vv. 12-20)

Apart from Jesus, we live in deep darkness. This is painful news to frustrated human beings and is often disputed by the majority. History points to different illusions of attainment. (And there are many five year old’s who still believe in Santa Claus.)

History tells us things, and so does scripture. Most of us are able to give off some light, but in our fallenness the best is just more darkness. Light isn’t possible without Jesus, who is called “the light of the world.”

We might be trained in a discipline or field, but really, at its best, we’re starting to realize that it’s just dark journey into a foggy gloom. We may be a physics or literature professor–but Jesus declares that “the light of the world.” Nothing we can do will change the fact.

It’s interesting that those who follow him, “will have the light of life.” I like the Message translation of John 8:12.

“Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.””

“Plenty of light to live in,” That’s his strong point, and that’s why it’s critical that we seek Jesus first and foremost. He shares this light with us, and to be actively energized by the LORD insures real life, peace, and spiritual success. And as he shares, we will transmit. He is the light, and we hope we can be the shiny mirrors.

We can only be light if the switch is turned on, it does nothing on its own. All it does is let the electricity flow through it, simply allowing a connection to be made. It seems that this is the believer’s role. When we pray, or when we worship authentically, the connection is made. Stand back and expect light.

When we finally let this light radiate through us, we won’t have to say a thing–it’s bright and it’s supernatural. Lighthouses don’t fire a cannon to call attention to their shining–they just shine. And now is an especially good time to blaze.

“The fundamental principle of Christianity is to be what God is, and he is light.”

John Hagee

Standard
authority, crowds, discernment, faith, gift, Jesus Christ, rest, seeking Him, truth, water

Flowing Rivers, #62

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out,” 

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 7:37-38

It was the Feast of Tabernacles–it would be the last one that Jesus would attend. The feast went on for eight days. Every day someone would carry a golden pitcher from the Pool of Siloam to be poured out on the altar in the temple. Everyone understood that this was to be done to acknowledge the way God provided water for them in the wilderness.

The eighth day was key. No water would be poured out; only prayers would be offered. There are points we should know–

  • The feast was also known as Tabernacles, and, Booths–Shelters–Sukkot–Ingathering.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles is very much like our Thanksgiving. It had dual focuses. It was a fall celebration, corresponding to the harvest. It also commemorated the 40 years of wilderness wanderings where God provided water for the Israelites. So it had dual significance.
  • It was a major event in the calendar; it was one of three main pilgrimages to the temple for every Jew and his family. Every observant man was required to make this trip. No matter where they lived, they must make this trip.

The city would be flooded with people, and Jesus spoke to huge crowds of religious pilgrims. Jesus stood in the temple courts, just a few steps from the Temple itself, it is there he just didn’t speak–he shouted. Perhaps that might seem to be a challenging thought for some.

There is a direct link between the water poured out on this Feast and Jesus’declaration that he was the final source of water–something spiritual, and quite true. Jesus declares plainly that he is the wellspring of life, and the amazing thing is that it’s open to all–it is received through a holy and true grace.

There is something about having water flow perpetually from one’s heart that we must figure out. It usually doesn’t long to realize that this all has to be pretty much a supernatural work of grace. People who need grace come to The Feast of Tabernacles, which looked forward to a beautiful river of grace–the throne of God is its source.

Jesus says that we’re to put our trust in him, to place him on the throne of our hearts–and then watch out, the water is going to gush out. But to be honest, I need to understand that he is always the first source, and we are the conduits of life to others. That spiritual equation is essential–it’s how it’s got to work.

“He was able to satisfy thirst, and, moreover, that those who received such satisfaction from Him should become channels through whom the overflowing rivers should pass.”

(Morgan’s Commentary on John 7)

Standard
Bible promises, decision, discernment, disciples, follow Him, Gospel, Kingdom of God, seeking Him, truth, work

The Plow, #56

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62 (context, vv. 57-62)

Every disciple has his plow. Sometimes it’ll be obvious, everyone sees it; other times it’ll be buried deep inside, and no one knows. A plow is a perfect word to describe exactly what the Holy Spirit is doing–and its descriptive of the determination of a disciple who is slowly learning how to follow.

When you’re trying to grow-up you’ll grasp this foundational lesson. You have to be single-minded and really focused to stay moving ahead. You cannot look behind at what has been done. You can’t turn around to admire your work, rather we look at the tree that is keeping us lined up with Jesus.

You will sweat and get tired. Your full effort is needed to keep the plow in the hard earth. You aren’t pushing, the oxen is pulling, but you’re the one who weighs it down while keeping your furrow relatively straight. It’s harder than it looks. (Thank God for the modern tractor.)

In case the plowman starts to look back, his plow line would become crooked. If that happens, the field he is plowing will not yield a full harvest. A good plowman has learned he must hold on. In following Jesus, we are to keep our eyes on Him, and never let our minds and hearts wander away. (Hebrews 12:1-2.)

“To keep our hand on the plow while wiping away the tears–THAT is Christianity.”

-Watchman Nee

To follow means looking and moving forward. We must understand this–it’s the very essence of walking a path. We’re walking out the journey. Sometimes we feel Jesus’ joy as His follower, but occasionally we won’t. We’re learning to understand it more and more. But no matter what, we keep putting heel-to-toe. We are followers after all.

Jesus lived this; He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

“To learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”

-George Mueller

Standard
Bible promises, called, decision, disciples, follow Him, Jesus Christ, rest, seeking Him, transformation, work

The Easy Yoke, Entry #35

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, (context, vv. 25-30)

I have thought some on these two verses; I’ve come to the conclusion that it really must be understood as a holy ‘invite.’ A gracious bidding to come to Him, to find much needed rest, and discover meaningful work. This is a gentle summons to blend both rest and work and then live it out in our lives.

Jesus is aware of my weak and faltering steps. I stumble a lot, I weave and trip often. Yet He never criticizes me, He finds no fault, but matches His steps to mine. On His own, Jesus could do the work much faster. But He insists we stay yoked, connected with each other. This amazes me.

The moment we do this we’ll understand that the combination of these two will always balance and correct us. It will pour out of us love, grace and gentleness. The fruits of the Spirit can be seen, and we become salt of the earth.

He invites us to come and be yoked, and to enter into true rest, and true work.

“Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.”

-St. Augustine

Standard
anointing, Gospel, healing, Jesus Christ, miracles, seeking Him

Mercy for My Sin, Entry #19

“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,” 

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

Matthew 9:2 (context vv. 1-8)

This man needed a touch. But more importantly he had to know that he was forgiven. It seems to me that this was his real need. Forgiveness must come first and foremost. And Jesus’ spoke directly at him. Jesus completely released him. There were no preconditions. Only the faith of his friends (v. 2.) Interesting.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

The religious leaders are very disturbed. Their analysis of this man’s forgiveness was a frontal attack on Jesus’ right to acquit sin. They said nothing, and the miracle really wasn’t even acknowledged. These leaders were in sharp contrast to those who witnessed this first-hand.

The text says that “the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (v. 8.)

The religious leaders determined that only God Himself could forgive; to let someone ‘off-the-hook’ like this. They said nothing (perhaps they were feeling ‘out numbered? IDK.)

To forgive sins is God’s exclusive prerogative. No man can release another man from sin. It has the Lord’s exclusive territory. And yet Jesus did precisely that to the chagrin of the ‘legalism’ that was running rampant in the hearts of the religious leaders .

I’m of the opinion that we’re all suffering a certain paralysis of sorts. Each of us have issues that cripple us. We each are sick, and we desperately need Jesus’ touch. “None of us is righteous” (Romans 3:10.) Perhaps Matthew 5:3-4 explains our walk knowing that we all need to be touched.

It seems that we are all dead men walking, separated from God.

The healing of this man was astonishing in itself. To miraculously heal was certainly profound. It doesn’t happen everyday. And yet these scribes, who were thinking about what Jesus said, called it “blasphemy.” They could not see the miracle that freed this man’s great burden.

“The high heaven covereth as well tall mountains as small mole hills, and mercy can cover all. The more desperate thy disease, the greater is the glory of thy physician, who hath perfectly cured thee.”

-Abraham Wright

 

Standard