Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pray without Ceasing....

I've been challenged, tho not directly or even as a dare, but rather invited to participate with a group of Brothers in an evening of prayer. I've got to admit that I'm struggling to find the courage to attend this prayer meeting. In short, it would be the best thing that we could do, IMHO. But the courage to open myself up, and to be real with each other is also humbling. It is definitely an invitation that I know I should accept, however, it is one that causes me some hesitation. Not that I have something to hide. I know I am a sinner, and need God's forgiveness. I also know that he is faithful to forgive. It's more a decision that's based on my personality. The last time I was in a solid hour of prayer was with dear Elder from church and we traded prayer times, and each time I prayed, I became so choked up I found it hard to continue. I suppose that deep down, I realize that I'm in the presence of God Almighty, humbly bowing before Him in prayer. It is an awesome thing to stand in front of God our creator, and I am in awe of His prescence. So, in order to prepare myself mentally for this great form of encouragement, I quickly searched some scriptures to read and think upon. There are several examples found in the Bible of people praying for others. Here are just a few, and I pray that these will help to encourage you, and I hope that you will pray the same thing for me.

Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
- Luke 22:31-32

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
- Ephesians 6:18-20

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.
- Colossians 1:3-4

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
- Colossians 4:2-4

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
- James 5:16-18

Am I Listening to What God Is Saying In His Word?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Phony Pharisees

In the time that I’ve spent studying through the gospels, (which is not as much as I should) I’ve easily noticed an antagonistic people called the Pharisees. I can see all that is written about them in the New Testament, and knew briefly what kind of people they were. But in case you’re like me, and could use a little refresher, here’s a little more background on them:

The Pharisees (the Hebrew word means “the separated ones” or “separatists”) felt that God had set them apart to live by the Torah (the Law, or Teaching, of Moses). For them, this meant following the interpretations of the Torah laid down by generations of teachers. So in a sense, the Pharisees considered the interpretation of the Torah by their Rabbi's to be more important than scripture themselves. Some Pharisees held that a man was righteous if he had done more good than bad, while others apparently followed the stricter group who insisted that even the least implications of the Law must be kept. The Pharisees expected a Messiah (Hebrew for “Anointed One”; Greek: Christ), who would deliver them from foreign oppression (Romans) and rule with justice. However, Jesus of Nazareth had infuriated many Pharisees by interpreting the Law differently and claiming a special relationship with God. Thus, when some Jews began to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and Lord (a term usually reserved for God), strict Pharisees opposed them vehemently.

Hopefully, a short point to this study is taken from a few verses. Jesus warns the people that, in general, the so-called righteousness of these Pharisees was not righteousness at all. Jesus says they worship me in vain. Their worship is useless to Jesus, and to themselves. Matthew 15:8-9

The problem I have personally is that I now realize that I am a Pharisee. Or rather, God willing, that I used to be a Pharisee. I realize that in my 30 plus years of being raised as a Christian, I was taught to question everything. I’ve seen families break up because of arguments over scripture. I’ve seen families dis-associate and cut all ties because of disagreements over scripture. I’ve seen brother dis-own brother because of scripture. And I believe that I was simply too blind to see it then, but now I believe that I was raised and taught to be more of a Pharisee, than I was a follower of Christ. Verse after verse explains just what it was that Christ went through here on this earth – for us, because of these argumentative Pharisees. This Messiah or Christ could not be the one, they said, because he does not agree with our interpretation of scripture. This Messiah is not a follower of “our way” therefore, he is not the one, they said.

I continue to study, but I’d love to share these verses with you, as they have been on my mind for quite some time….In fact, I remember studying these same verses over the past several years. And each time I read them, I would say, I’m glad I’m not like that Pharisee, who thinks better of himself than he should, and I would turn around and judge someone whom I disagreed with, knowing in my heart that they were wrong, because they didn’t think of believe just like me…..what a paradox.

When Jesus taught on the mountain, the beatitudes, he explained that if a person is to teach, he must also follow his own teachings – unlike the Pharisees:
Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus called Matthew, and Matthew had a large feast in his home for Jesus:
Matthew 9:11 Mark 2:16 Luke 5:30 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

At the same feast, the Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus why aren’t his disciples more like themselves – as if they were superior to them:
Matthew 9:14 Mark 2:18 Luke 5:33 Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?"

On one Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples are walking through the grain fields, picking grain to eat as they walked:
Matthew 12:2 Mark 2:24 Luke 6:2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!"

In this case, Jesus really sets the record straight in the fact that these Pharisees were more interested in their own traditions, rather than the commandments of God:
Matthew 15:1-9 Mark 7:5 1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." 3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"-- 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "

Luke 18:9-14 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

As if I cannot see the implications myself, Jesus plainly teaches his disciples to avoid the doctrine of the Pharisees. I realize that I am like them. I realize that I must put that off, and not be one of them. I realize that if I am just like them, that I am as pleasing to Jesus, as they were to Him:
Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 11 "How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?--but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Matthew 23:25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

I apologize for being such a fake. I realize that in my own life, I have pointed the finger far too many times at others for stupid, inconsequential things that don’t matter, when I can’t even get my life straight. I’m sorry for being a Pharisee. Instead, I wish to be a follower of Christ. I’m sorry for appearing to be “all together” on the outside, while inside I fight my own set of demons. But most of all, at this moment, I am glad that I realize that what I should be is a follower of Christ. If Christ is my example, then I should follow him. I see a huge difference in the way Christ lived, and who he associated with, than I do with how the Pharisees lived and who they associated with. I'm also reminded of what a very good Elder friend of mine said to me, as I was explaining to him what all I couldn't do, and what others shouldn't do either. He said to me, "I don't focus on what I can't do, but what I can do - and then I do that." Thanks Mr. Dale.
Am I listening to what God is saying in His Word?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Encouragement. A Christian Action.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today,

I’m learning a little more each day, that this life is a hard life, and one that is impossible to live on my own. In fact, I am so glad that I have such a great family, such a great church, and recently, such a great support group in my closest group of friends. For without all of my associations, I certainly would find it all but impossible to live the Christian life that I’m told to live. There are just so many emotions wrapped up and intertwined in my associations, and all those emotions are exposed on a daily, weekly, and biweekly schedule. More than anything, I’m also learning a little each day that the greatest emotion that I’m to have toward all my associations is the one of Love. Luke 6:27-36 teaches me that I’m to Love my friends, and what’s even more difficult than that is that I’m also to Love my enemies or those who would even hurt me. Remember Jesus and the Love that He showed – even to those who were hanging him to a cross.

Love causes a lot of emotions too; a lot of emotions that I am still learning about. Love causes or allows or enables me to do certain things that I normally would not do. In fact, it’s just human nature for me to hate my enemies. And it’s this hate that would cause me to either run away, to avoid my enemies, or more than that, to plan out and destroy my enemies. The bible is full of these examples. Remember the Philistines and Sampson? Remember the Pharisees and Jesus, or Paul? These people hounded both physically and emotionally, the people of God. In fact, in a sense of the word, I am told that I should not destroy the work of God in this same way. Romans 14 talks about how I as a Christian should not be selfish and flaunt my liberties in front of other weaker Christians because by doing so, I am “destroying” that weaker Christian, and the work of God. There is a Greek word listed in Strong’s number reference 2647, which describes it best this way: to dissolve, disunite (what has been joined together), to destroy, demolish, overthrow, and deprive of success. God would rather have me “build up” my brother or sister, than for me to tear him or her down.

So, it is with that purpose that I will focus on and try to do better. That I may build up my fellow brother or sister, and also to Love everyone more. That I may encourage others as often as I can so that our faith will increase, and so that we will both be built up strong so that we can both stand in front of Satan, and turn our backs away from him and toward Jesus instead. There are many forms of the word encourage, most all would be very helpful to apply to my life. It is beneficial for me as a Christian, a member of the body of Christ, one forgiven by God to encourage another. It is beneficial for me as a Christian, to speak to another, rather than simply walk on by. Again, I'm back to the Love issue. Love of my fellow brother or sister should allow and enable me to “get out of my comfort zone” and stand up and serve in this way. Encouragement can also cause me to console others when they are hurting, sad, or depressed. It would also allow me to rejoice and be happy for others who are happy, instead of being jealous of their good fortune. Encouragement can also mean to speak to my fellow brother or sister in a humble way of teaching them, or reminding them of scripture. It’s sometimes easier for me to see problems in others, and offer my help, than it is for me to see the problems in my own life. But do I see the value of encouragement? If I cannot easily see the wrong in my life, then there’s always a need for me to have someone tell me. I need you, just like you need me, and together we can become stronger.

Even in the most difficult circumstances, encouragement can be found. Remember when apostle Paul was telling the story about the shipwreck on his way to Rome? He was on a boat with several other prisoners and armed guards. On their way, they encountered some very bad weather and the whole crew, 276 people feared for their life. Acts 27:21-36. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave Paul the words to speak, and he encouraged them and gave them instructions on what to do, and then he prayed in front of them all. All of them were encouraged by the words and actions of apostle Paul. They all calmed down, ate some food, followed Paul’s instructions, and all were saved.

When encouraging others is sometimes emotionally draining, it’s so wonderful to hear good words from others about good and happy thoughts. Remember once again the apostle Paul as he was in prison, writing several churches all over the country, and sending his faithful servants like Timothy to churches like the one in Philippi as found in Philippians 2:19. Paul said that he hoped that the Lord would allow him to quickly send Timothy over to the church at Philippi, so that Timothy could asses the status of the church there, and to hopefully inform Paul of the great news that the church is alive and well, and worshipping God in all peace and harmony. Good news is definitely encouraging.

It’s also such an encouragement to lift others up in their service to God. I should be extremely happy and supportive of my fellow brother or sister who chooses to serve God in the way that they have been called. Remember the story of Apollos as found in Acts 18:24-27. Apollos was a very knowledgeable and wise person, well trained in the scriptures and full of the Holy Spirit. When he wanted to go to other parts of the country to teach the word, he had many others who supported him in various ways. There were some there who even wrote reference letters for him to take with him as proof of his character, wisdom, and support from the church at Ephesus. I should also support my fellow brother or sister in their efforts to reach the lost for Christ.

I could go on and on, and I find this article already getting long. But, I have definitely made it a mission to try and “touch” others in this special way. It’s plain to see that it does so much good for others to be encouraged, but it also has the selfish benefit of encouraging myself as well. However, I would certainly covet your encouragement as well. It would really go a long way to lifting my spirits up, and I believe that you would quickly find that it would do the same for you, and the favor would definitely be returned.
Am I Listening to What God is Saying in His Word?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Very Dedicated Father

two little spiders sitting on a thread.
one says hi and the other turns her head.
one smiles wide and the other blows a kiss.
one gets closer but he's sure to miss.
he raises his arms and he spins around,
but he's soon to wind up on the ground.
he's never heard the story from his dad,
how he pulled the same moves just like he had.
he thinks he's smooth, he thinks he's slick,
but she's fixing to lure him into a trick.
once they're done and before he gets away,
she's got him by the throat and he'll never see the day
when his heirs will scurry all over the place
what a smile that would have been upon his face.

two little spiders sitting on a thread,
one says hi, but now he's dead.

For those who think this is a morbid story, well, it is. But it is a true story. Usually, after spiders mate, the female usually grabs the male and eats him just like any other bug it could catch. And unfortunately for the little male in the picture, the same thing happened to him. Normally, a female spider goes through several male suitors, and uses each opportunity to have a meal which will in turn give her the protein to help her produce more eggs for her future generation. In more ways than one, you could say that the male spider knows that he's helping to secure his future generation by his sacrificial death. In the same way, the mother garden spider soon dies after preparing her egg case in the late summer. Both are dedicated parents, doing what they must for their offspring. God blesses most of us with that same knowledge to raise and care for our offspring. Am I as dedicated and responsible as this family of spiders? As a father, do I give my all to my children? Do I help to secure their future by making the right decisions for them? Do I realize the importance of my duty and responsibility in training them up “In the Lord”? Am I there for them, as much as possible? Do I show them the same love that my heavenly father shows to me?

Sadly, my answer falls very short. I admit that I am not the perfect father. I am sometimes a selfish man, and at times consider what’s best for me, and not for my kids. So, all of these questions cause me to think, to make me consider, to bring about my guilt so that I can change – before it’s too late. Before my kids are grown up and gone away. Or worse, before I’m gone. That’s right, there’s no promise of tomorrow. I admittedly must do better toward my kids.
Read what is said about God in James 1:17. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Our God – my God is the God of creation. He is the God who created the heavens. He is the God who created the earth. He is the God who created everything there is, everything I see, and everything I cannot see. He is the Father of lights. He is the Father of us all.

I must also learn and realize that my God and father is waiting on me. He stands ready for me, if I will but ask for His help. Do I have the same qualities that God does in this aspect? Am I always available to respond to my children? Or am I too busy to be interrupted? Read what is said about God in Luke 11:9-13. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

I must also realize that my God and father wants what’s best for me – His child. He cares for me, He loves me, He teaches me, He corrects me. God is concerned when I do not act the way I should. God does allow me to make my mistakes, but he is always there to pick me back up, when I ask Him to. Remember the story about the Father and the two brothers. I must teach my children that I will always be there for them, as long as they are willing to live for God. Remember, the Father did not go after His son, but waited and watched daily for his son to come back home. It is very hard to watch and see our children make the wrong choices, just as it was for the Father to see his son make the wrong choice in his life.

Read what Jesus says in Revelation 3:19-20. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus does not say that he will barge in uninvited. But stands ready and waiting for the invitation, and once invited, he will come in and be with us. Discipline is not easy, and if done right will often times correct the erring child. The key is, “done right”. This is a struggle with me, as I tend to be too emotional instead of rational. Instead of thinking through with a plan of punishment that would bring about correction, I am too quick with punishment that often times brings about the wrong response. I am thankful that God is a just and merciful father. I am grateful for His examples. My goal is to be as close to being the same loving father that my Lord God is with me. When I sin, I can ask my Father God to forgive me, and He has promised me that He will. When my son does something to me, I must consider to treat him with the same loving response that God the Father gives to me.

In one small way, God the Father is just like that little bitty male garden spider. He has prepared the way for me to be the same father that He is. He has given me that chance and opportunity to have children, and to raise them up with love, and to teach them about His great gift that saves all of mankind.

Am I listening to what God is saying in His Word?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Prepare now for later.....

Driving to work the other morning, I was listening to an NPR story about the imminent cost of heating oil on the Northeast part of the country. Yes, we’re in the middle of a very hot summer. But so far, after every summer comes fall, and then Winter. So far, it’s been a sure bet. Heating oil prices have almost doubled over the last year, as well as most every other type of fuel. The local officials are preparing for what could be a long and drawn-out crisis this winter. People are talking about what to do, and if they should even consider buying and stocking up with a wood burning stove to supplement their heating methods. Some people are stuck between a rock and a hard place in determining what they should spend their money on; their mortgage, their food, their medicine, or their heating fuel. One thing for sure: there are some who are making plans, and there are others who are not doing a thing about it.

After hearing this story, I was immediately reminded of the old Aesop fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. This fable talks about a grasshopper that spends the warm summer months in complete ease. Taking and consuming the rich spoils that the summer months bring with total disregard to the imminent winter months. He reclines, he eats, he sings, and he plays, all in front of a colony of hard-working ants that just shake their heads as they pass him by. “You should be saving up now, for the winter to come”, they tell the grasshopper. “No way, Hosea” he says. “I’m just chillin like McGillan with all this summer produce.” The ants just shrug their shoulders and continue marching in line, with produce in hand to their stockpile. Fast forward a few months, into a cold part of the winter, and the wind blows cold over the ant and grasshopper neighborhood. Of course, the ants are deep inside their anthill, while the grasshopper is stuck outside.

The moral of this story of course goes something like this:
Idleness brings want.
To work today is to eat tomorrow.
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

Of course, this story also has spiritual applications as well. Our lives are compared to a vapor, a puff of steam which can only been seen for a second, and then disappears. We cannot live our lives thinking that our future is sure. But, we should rely on God’s will for us and our lives, and allow Him to work in us, while we still have time. We should not be proud like the grasshopper and think that all is well and not make provisions for ourselves. God says that this kind of thinking is evil. God wants us to take a look around, and if we see good to do, then do it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we should not prepare and make plans for our physical lives. In fact we also have the stern warning that if we don’t provide for our own, then we are judged worse than an unbelieving person. If we spend our life for the pleasures of this life, then we are considered by God to be dead while we live.

What my point is that Jesus himself, our perfect example, instructs us that we should not worry about the physical things of this life. But instead, we should focus upon the kingdom of God. By doing so, He has promised us that all these things will be added to us. Just like the ants in the story, knew of the impending winter, we too will have a day when the winter of our live will come. Will we, like the ant, be ready for that season? Will we have planned and worked in the kingdom, laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven? Or will we live our live like the grasshopper, without a care in life, spending out our days in physical joy and pleasure – not concerned about the kingdom or its benefits. I find myself quickly running out of time and needing to make a better decision in my life.

Lord, I pray, that you will pour out on your people, your Spirit. I pray that you will allow us to see the true meaning in life, that you will allow us to see the true reason why we are here, that you will help us to see the many opportunities in your kingdom. And that you will give us the courage to act on those opportunities. I pray for those opportunities, and I pray for your spirit of power and strength to allow me to act on those opportunities. I pray Lord, that I will not allow those opportunities to be wasted, and to pass me by. I pray, that I will act, while there is still time. Thank you Lord, for your blessings in live. Help me to see that you have blessed me for a reason, and help me to realize that you have blessed me far more than most people in this world. Help me to know and to realize that by giving me your gospel, that I have the most precious gift in the world, and there are many who do not know about it. Please use me to share that gift with others, Lord. Amen.
Am I listening to what God is saying in His word?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Zacchaeus was a little man....with a big heart for God

I’m horrible about judging people. At times, if I’m not careful, I pass judgement onto people before I even consider my sin filled life in God’s eyes. At times, I have a “holier than thou” attitude toward my fellow man – yet if I stop and think about it, I’m a pretty pitiful sight in God’s eyes. Yet, I’m thankful for God’s plan, and for His love that He and His son Jesus Christ offered toward all who will accept His gift. The Gospel is for all who will accept it. But, they gotta hear it first. That’s where Jesus lead by example. Take for instance the people of Jesus’ time. There were those who followed Jesus, and those who didn’t. There were those who obeyed His teachings, and those who didn’t. There were those who felt like they were righteous, and liked to show off for Jesus, and those who knew they were lost, and in need of Jesus’ help. There were also those who just out of curiosity, wanted to take a peek at Jesus and see what He was all about. There had been some magnificent stories about Jesus that floated from town to town, and certainly not to down-play all of the miracles that Jesus did, but we all know that stories tend to grow and grow second and third hand.

There was a man who lived a very good life. In fact, he lived his life in quite a predicament. He made his living at the expense of other people. Although he was certainly “just doing his job” while he took their money, he was more than likely compensated by percentage of every single penny that he collected. So, what could be more motivating than to have a percentage of everything that you collect. We call Zacchaeus a tax collector. But I also get the feeling, though I’m only guessing and adding to the story, that Mr. Zacchaeus was also a debt collector. After all, the more that he could collect from the people for the government’s sake, the larger his cut would be too. It was this occupation, tax collector/debt collector that made Zacchaeus a very wealthy man. It was also this same occupation that made others hate him and call him a sinner. Was there some judging going on back then? You better believe it. Judging, non-the-less by so called followers of Jesus, who were feeling a little self-righteous. (Careful self, ‘cause I’m calling you out here too)

These people of Jericho obviously were all familiar with this low-life they called Zacchaeus, or “Zach-attack-us” or whatever names they might have hurled at him outside of his presence. In fact, Mr. Zacchaeus might have even felt uneasy around all these people whom his two assistants, Guido and Luigi roughed up a bit occasionally when they fell behind in their payments. But non-the-less, Mr. Zacchaeus’ curiosity got the best of him, and he made his way out to take a look at this magician Jesus that was coming through town that one day. In fact, you could say that Mr. Zacchaeus actually really put forth a good hard effort to see this Jesus. He realized his limitations, and planned ahead and figured out his route through the town, and got up in a tree and waited for him there.

Here’s where Jesus really amazed everyone there, including Zacchaeus. For He called him by his name, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." [Luke 19:5] How cool was that? Zacchaeus had never met Jesus before, but Jesus knew who he was, and wanted to go home with him. What’s Jesus’ strategy here? Jesus associates with someone that was pretty much a thorn in all these people’s side, someone who had defrauded the people of extra money that was above and beyond their actual obligation, someone who was very rich and had a lot of life’s fine possessions. Would you call this move by Jesus risky? He could hear the grumbles from the people. These people certainly could not understand why Jesus was doing this. These people certainly talked to others about this and yet another nasty rumor has started and spread, and grown and gotten way out of hand. These people certainly could not understand why Jesus did what he did. But, regardless, Zacchaeus hears the grumbles too. What Zacchaeus does next is just the kind of response that Jesus wanted, and that Jesus expected to come from Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus stands up and admits freely in front of all: "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." [v.8] Then we hear those famous words of Jesus: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." [vv.9,10] Awesome. Unfortunately, there were some there who didn’t even see this miracle happening. This change in a man from serving the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. They were too put out that Jesus would even talk to this thief, let alone go to his house. What’s even more interesting to me is that Jesus doesn’t try to console those around him, but instead says, [paraphrased] I am more concerned with people who know they’re wrong, than the people who think they’re right.
Am I listening to what God is saying in His word?