The Art of Being Found

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name.“Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:1-10, NLT

Zacchaeus was a very resourceful man.  Jericho was a prime toll center in the entire region, and Zacchaeus would’ve been the richest man in the entire region. He was very wealthy, being an overseer of other tax collectors (in a region with a major export of balsa wood.) He was well on his way to becoming a millionaire (at least, the ancient Judean version of it.)

We should know two things about Zacchaeus:

  1. His Hebrew name meant “pure.” This was an ironic moniker for a despised man who had sold out to the Roman tax business. (Perhaps he had had a ‘godly mother?)
  2. He was very short in stature. (I suppose we could call him ‘vertically challenged’?)

I suppose there is one other thing, my guess is it’s the main one. He simply wanted to see Jesus. He was so short that he couldn’t see over the crowds. Perhaps he could’ve bribed his way to the curb, but apparently, there wasn’t enough time. Jesus was coming this way!

He looks and sees a tree. It grew on the side of the road, its branches hanging over the well-traveled path. He clumsily climbs up (in a robe!) and finds a clear spot to get a good look at Jesus. He is a simple man, and this is all he wants is just to see Jesus!

Within the Christian faith over the many centuries, there has always been a heart’s desire to get closer to Jesus. Many of the established ‘disciplines’ such as:

  • prayer
  • the study of scripture
  • fasting
  • evangelism
  • simplicity
  • solitude
  • service
  • confession
  • worship

Think of each as simply branches of the tree. Each discipline comes as one of several. But they are futile, or worse if they don’t lead us to Jesus Christ. 

It is critical to grasp the end result; they are merely the methods we use to see Jesus clearer. Its folly to climb the tree, just for the sake of climbing. No. The branch we are sitting on is just a means to an end. To behold our Lord, to somehow get closer to Him is priceless.

For example, I usually don’t pray for ‘prayers sake.’ I must pray like Zacchaeus climbed, just to see Jesus. I know He is always watching and yet I want Him to see me.

We also are not to build tree houses. Rather we’re meant to see Jesus, come down, and have a wonderful time with Him in close fellowship.

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Blood in the Water

It’s a fact. Biologists tell us that sharks can smell blood from 2-3 miles away. They follow their noses to the place where they sense it. They have an ‘attack mechanism’ to anything that’s attacked. Blood acts as a trigger inside their brains. Occasionally dozens of sharks attack in a feeding frenzy that’s pretty sad..

Almost 40 years in the Church has taught me that sharks aren’t the only ones that turn on the wounded.

The Church is supposed to be a safe and a healing place. This is what the Holy Spirit wants. That isn’t always the case. A believers in Jesus we should of done better.–there is an explanation of supreme grace. Someone one fails, another falters. Sin is uncovered and everyone takes cover.

There some who be might be restored, and many others are trampled down instead.   There’re many who would rather pounce than pray. Unfortunately when the “sharks” attack it almost always ends up being a as a vicious personal attack. It only creates more blood in the water.

There are many who bleed. Those with a mental illness, or confined to a wheelchair, or with Downs Syndrome, they’re are the first that come to mind. They’re often the developmentally disabled, the drunk, the addict, the adulterer, the disabled, the homosexual, the poor, and the ex-con who are just several kinds of people that regularly get hurt in our churches.

“God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.”

Matthew 5:7, NLT

Mercy is what God extends to people who don’t deserve any. Failure to understand God’s deep penchant becomes the mercy that becomes the religious confusion that typically disturbs us. Keep in mind that the Prodigal’s older brother refused to party with the forgiven son. How terribly sad, and religiously confusing. I have to wonder, who really has been attacked by the enemy?

In theory, we agree to Matthew 5. We find tremendous inspiration when this verse is read. But the noble feelings don’t always translate well into dedicated action. I’ve come to see that I must consciously press this into action. I must actively show mercy for the healing of others– and if anything to protect my own heart.

The Kingdom of God is specifically designed for losers; it exists for the sick, the stumbler and the sinner.

The Great Physician has come for the sick– and not so much for the healthy. He loves each of us, but cares in different ways. He tailors His grace to fit our sin. He’s concerned for the very worst. He associates with the lowly.

If there is blood in the water, let’s turn it up a notch, and let’s show special mercy for those who are struggling. Let us be kinder than we have to be. If we err— let us always err on the side of mercy and kindness. 

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The Awful Weariness of It All

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“For my life is full of troubles,
    and death draws near.”

Psalm 88:3

Not really ‘positive’ is it? There is often a very dull, desperate tedium that saturates our lives–especially those among us with profound mental and physical issues.  It never lets up, the grind is constant. Depression, confusion, paranoia, and mania weave in and out of our lives.  Sometimes they seem to have ‘moved in’ with us.  (And, they intend to stay.)

There can be a hopelessness present–an ugly realization that there is no hope for today, and that tomorrow will not be any different. Some consider ending it all–rather than continue without hope. It is a terrible way to live, but hopelessness isn’t something humans can handle appropriately.

Contained in the scriptures are many stories and parables about wedding feasts and the king’s banquets.  On one occasion, somebody ‘finagles’ his way into the party. But it is then he is strongly confronted.  The bouncers bind his hands and feet, carry him out.  He is thrown out into the “outer darkness.”  The charge prompting this was his attire, it was all wrong.  He wasn’t dressed for the wedding. He did not belong there.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:11-14, ESV

Many have given in to their despair, they now reside in “the outer darkness.”  They are no longer dressed for the banquet. They’ve stripped themselves of their wedding garments. How tragic. They have given up.

I’ll be the first to admit that mental illness and discipleship don’t always blend well together.  But the Father understands and increases his deposit of grace to make up for this deficiency. He doesn’t treat his beloved sons equally. Extra grace is given to the chronically ill.

Those who limp are given extra help as they follow Him.

God has created us for a wedding feast. And it is with confidence that we look forward to this feast, for in Christ we will not be found naked but clothed in the white garments of His righteousness.  He took my dirty and filthy clothes and exchanged them for his own white ones.  We wear his gift, and oh, what a wonder we are!

It’s time to get dressed.

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
      For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation
      and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
   I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
      or a bride with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10, NLT

 

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Becoming a Gentle and Meek Person

Being very gentle with others

Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. To be careful means that you are becoming aware.

Perhaps this idea of becoming careful brings us the closest.  People who know exactly who they have become the most gentle of human beings.  They now live for others, showing deep-seated care for even the “least.” They need to become our elders and pastors.

Jesus is gentle, just as much as He is strong and wise and bold. You could say He was always gentle, even when He was bold and authoritative. No once did Jesus show unkindness in His words or teaching or actions. He was kind all the time, even when He was tired and hungry.

“He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”

Matthew 12:20-21, NLT

Quotes:

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson, but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.”                                                

 A.W. Tozer

“The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.” 

Martin Luther

“Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness.  Indeed it is considered rather as belonging to natural disposition or external manners, than as a Christian virtue; and seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.” 

Norman Bethune

“Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others.  Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.” 

Jerry Bridges

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