Lets Hang Out

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man… a wee little man was he… he climbed up in a Sycamore tree, the Lord he wanted to see…”

That’s was pretty much my knowledge of the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. When my kids were little, that was a catchy little song we sang about this wayward little man who climbed up in a tree to see Jesus passing by. Somehow they ended up having dinner together or something.

So when we read the story together a few nights ago, we were open to learning some new things about this guy.

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.  And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”  So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.  But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:1-10

The head tax collector made his money from taking what he could from his fellow Jews and giving it to the Romans. Not a popular guy. This short little man may not have had stature, but he was rich and he was hated. I wonder why he even wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus at all. Maybe sheer curiosity. Maybe something inside his small little heart thought this really could be the promised Messiah. Whatever the reason, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up a tree in order to see this Jesus.

“How did Jesus know his name?” one of my boys asked. Something I didn’t even notice. Jesus, surrounded by a huge, pushing crowd of Pharisees and do-gooders, noticed this little guy up a tree and addressed him by name. “Zacchaeus!” What he must have thought being addressed by name! So it is for all of us – Jesus seeks us out (even when we are up a tree so to speak) and He calls us by name! He seeks out the sinner, the outcast, the short people… and he calls us by name.

The next thing we noticed was how strange it was that Jesus invited Himself over to this tax collectors house for dinner. He called Zacchaeus down from his tree and said “lets go hang out!” With all the people vying for Jesus’ attention and time, He goes and chooses this guy. Maybe Zacchaeus was super proud that he had beat them all out. Maybe he was shocked and scared. We are told that the crowd was “displeased” with the choice Jesus made of where to spend His afternoon. Of course they were. They did not yet understand Jesus came for sinners and those who admit they need a savior. He saw Zacchaeus’ heart even if no one else could.

This must have been some meal. What did they talk about? The passage skips all those details and jumps right to the shocking ending. Zacchaeus suddenly announces he’s giving back all he has stolen and that he’s giving half of what he has to the poor. WHAT?! All this transpired over one meal? Personally, I don’t think Jesus scolded him or told him much of anything. I think the heart of this man was completely changed by simply being in the presence of Christ and His unconditional love. I think Zacchaeus sat at a table with God incarnate and he couldn’t help but be changed. All because Jesus simply said, “I’d like to come to your house for dinner.”

What an amazing and simple thing this was for us to read together. No matter what we have done, no matter how bad or nasty we’ve been, Jesus seeks us out by name and wants to hang out with us.

He doesn’t point a finger and yell at us for our messes. He’s not even mad. Time with Him alone changes hearts. It changes intentions. I kind of wish the details of the story were in there somewhere, but they aren’t. I think the reason is for us to simply understand that spending time in the presence of the Lord is enough. No rules. No formulas. Just go be with Him. He wants our time. It doesn’t have to be fancy, He just desires us.

After a short meal with Jesus, this man stood up and announced he was changing everything. He wasn’t forced. That’s a heart change. Time spent with Him is never wasted. Hearts are changed by the smallest things.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves about things like this. God doesn’t require perfection. He came for the imperfect. He came for us who know we are messed up and messy. Hang out with Him. Commune with Him and abide with Him and who knows what kind of heart change will come of it!

Sinner or Saint?

From “The Bondage Breaker, Youth Edition” by Neil Anderson and Dave Park.

“Have you ever heard a Christian say, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace?” Have you referred to yourself that way? If you see yourself as a sinner, you probably will sin. What would you expect a sinner to do? There will be little in your life to distinguish you from a non-Christian, and you will be filled with feelings of defeat.
Satan will seize that opportunity, pour on the guilt, and convince you that you are doomed to a roller-coaster spiritual life. As a defeated Christian, you will confess your sin and try to do better, but inwardly you will admit that you are just a sinner saved by grace, hanging on until Christ returns for you.
Is that who you really are? No way! The Bible doesn’t refer to believers as sinners, not even sinners saved by grace. Believers are called saints – holy ones- who sometimes sin. We become saints at the moment of salvation- that’s called justification. We live and grow as saints in our daily experience – that’s called sanctification – as we continue to affirm who we really are in Christ. Seeing yourself as a saint instead of a sinner will have a powerful effect on your daily ability to have victory over sin and satan.”

We are sinners. But we are told that we are to consider ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11). The power that sin held over us is broken. It is still present in our lives and all around us, but it no longer holds authority over us. It’s not positive thinking that will free us, although we do need to see ourselves how God sees us. It’s that the power of sin has been broken by what Christ did for us.
How easy it is to think we are victims of the enemy’s scheming. Living like a victim is sometimes easier than getting back up. What’s the point if we are going to be knocked back down again? God has us. We are His beloved and we are not weak prey for satan to come scoop up whenever he wants. As children of the King we have authority! Our identity is in Him as His saints, not lowly helpless sinners.
That we would remember who we are here on earth and know that we can experience every bit of Jesus’ love here and now.

Fill Your Horn And GO!

“The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 1 Samuel 16:1

Could’ve

Should’ve

Would’ve

Thats the story with Saul and his time as king of Israel. He was chosen by God to reign and remained king until the day he died, but he thwarted what God’s plan was through his disobedience. His blessing turned into a great burden because he selfishly refused to honor what God instructed him to do. His choices and his rebellion led to a new door to be opened – enter little David!

God gave Saul his chances, but after continual rejection, He moved on. He searched out a willing heart and found it in David. God was ready to move on, and He needed Samuel’s help.

I can imagine how awkward this must have been for young Samuel. He had been involved in the anointing of Saul as king and he had watched his downfall. Now it was time to go find a new king. But Saul was still alive. Samuel was frightened.

“Fill your horn with oil, and GO.”

God was clear. Time to move on.

When God signals to us that it’s time to move forward, how do we respond? It’s easy to dig our heels in and refuse to go. Sometimes we have no idea where He is headed. God asks us “How long are you going to mourn for Saul?”  In other words, “How long are you going to hang on to the past? I’m doing something new! Get on board!”

When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God had a cloud sit over the tabernacle. When the cloud moved, they followed. It meant it was time to pack it up and go (Exodus 40). He is always moving us onward and upward. We may camp awhile in a certain place, but there will always be a time to move on. If we don’t, we become like a stagnant pond. We have to move on from the good as well as the negative. Our work is never done. Our learning is never done!

God is looking for Davids. Willing hearts to follow where He leads. Saul was a master of excuses and half-truths. He obeyed to a point, but not fully.

When the cloud moves, we need to be ready! If He tells us it’s time to fill our horns with oil and move on, we must be ready to do it! God has bigger plans for us than we can ever imagine, but we must be willing to join Him. Saul could have been a powerful and successful king. His refusal to obey negated those plans. The beautiful thing is that God wants His will to be done here on earth and He can and will use the very least of us to do it!

Far Too Easily Pleased

“The Spirit of God alters my dominating desires; He alters the thing that matters, and a universe of desires I had never known before, suddenly comes on the horizon.” Oswald Chambers

What better evidence of our being united with our Heavenly Father than when we allow Him to actually change our direction and our desires. To allow Him to alter our course is one of the most surrendered and vulnerable things we can do in our relationship with Him. “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion…” (Isaiah 30:18).

We lay all kinds of plans based on our desires. We decide what looks like the best path and we try and get God’s stamp of approval after we’ve decided how it’s going to look. When things inevitably don’t work out how we planned, we are disappointed and upset at Him. We failed to line up our will with His.

It isn’t a bad thing at all to be corrected or detoured by God! If we really desire HIS will, it can be one of the most exciting and revealing times of our lives. Those ‘fork in the road’ moments can be a highlight on our journey if we are confident that He desires the best for us. Things only go wrong when we fight against Him and demand our own way. We tend to think that His way may not be the best. We are afraid that He’s somehow holding out on us.

In my life, God has moved me to places I never thought I would be. The first time He told me to move was in college – to another state and another school I had never seen. For months I fought with everything I had to stay put. It wasn’t in the plan. Things finally got so bad and I was so exhausted, I surrendered to what He was asking me to do. It didn’t have to be that way! Once I finally obeyed, the floodgates of blessing opened. What He had in store for me at that new place was more than I ever could have imagined. So later the next year, when He moved me AGAIN (this time to a different country) I was far less resistant. I didn’t understand it, but I certainly didn’t fight it. There was blessing on the other side of obedience. His plan for me was so much better than what I had in mind for myself! My little blueprint for life was NOTHING compared to His!

Our dreams are very small compared to what God has intended for us. C.S. Lewis nailed it when he said this:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Our desires aren’t too big for God, they are usually too SMALL! What if we believed this?! What if we stopped holding so tightly to all the little things we think we need to make us happy and grabbed on to what God Himself wants for us? Our feeble little hearts desires coming into total unity with what our creator intended for us. We can’t even imagine what His thoughts and plans for us look like.  It may not be what we think. It may not even be comfortable or pretty compared to the world’s standards. But it is the best. The people who can get out of the comfort zone of their own ideas and get centered in God’s will are the people He can use. It has nothing to do with talent or ability and everything to do with our surrender.

God has a whole new world of experiences out there for every one of us that we cannot even fathom. We can never exhaust His blessings or tap out the things He has for us. It’s true that our desires are actually too small and too weak. It’s the whole idea of getting out of the boat to walk on the water. We can stay where we are and sink or we can get up and let Jesus have His way with us. The great thing is that once we make that move and place ourselves in His care, He is in charge. If we step off the path, He shows us the way back on to it. If we are off the road by a mile, He directs us back. When we start to actively pursue HIS ways and take the limits off of what we think He can or will do… that’s when the new horizon appears. Things we never could have imagined start to happen because we set our heart on making His will and our will one in the same.