Saturday, October 23, 2021

Zacchaeus' Truth

 “And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up [a]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 19:5-9

We all know about Zacchaeus.  There’s even a song written about him for children. You probably know it:

Zacchaeus was a wee little man
And a wee little man was he
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see

And when the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree
And said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I'm going to your house today!
For I'm going to your house today!'

Zacchaeus was a wee little man
But a happy man was he
For he had seen the Lord that day
And a happy man was he;
And a very happy man was he

But there’s so much more about Zacchaeus that we don’t get from this song.

Zacchaeus was hated by those that knew him.  He was snubbed because he was a tax collector. In those days tax collectors were predominately bad people who took more than they should and kept part of the taxes they collected for themselves. 

But in Zacchaeus’ own testimony to Jesus he said he gave half of what he had to the poor.  Moreover, if he ever overcharged anyone, he gave it back to them four times over.  Zacchaeus wasn’t just a wee little man, he loved poor people enough to help them.  He was honest.  And when Jesus came to town, knowing he was short and wouldn’t see him pass by, he climbed a tree to see him.  His admiration for Jesus was that strong.

We often do the same thing.  There are certain places that if people work there, we consider them as sinners.  Yet the truth is, we all need a job!  We work to take care of our families the best we can.  Judging people by where they work makes about as much sense as judging them by color, shape, size, smell, or anything else.  Friends there are good people and bad people of all sorts of shapes and sizes.  And because only God truly knows anyone, we need to withhold all judgement.  For, after all, with the judgement you give, you will also be judged.  Now some of us have made a long list of ways we will be judged.  Isn’t it time to stop adding to that extensive list?

Zacchaeus may have been a wee little man, and a tax collector.  But Jesus chose to stay at his house, and to see him as the son of Abraham.



Sunday, October 17, 2021

Monkeys and The Church


"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

My pastor talked today about Stephen and his message to those that would eventually make him the first martyr of Christianity. Stephen was bold, but not abrasive.  When brought before the high priests and his adversaries and asked to give answer to what he had been preaching, he instead was teaching them.  He went through the history of their patriarch, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, and David.  He showed them how Jesus Christ was promised long before He was born.  He showed them that Jesus was our Savior, sent from the very God they served.  He was bold – but not brazen.  He spoke the truth, but in love, not anger or condemnation. He showed them that if they reject Jesus, they reject God.

While my pastor was preaching, God not only convicted me, but also gave me a vision of the three monkeys that are infamous in trinket shops.  They are called the Three Wise Monkeys, and are labelled, “See no Evil”, “Hear no Evil”, and “Speak no Evil”.  They were created by Nippon, a brand of china from Japan.  When I was a little girl, I remember us talking about them in Sunday School.  The lesson was that we were to avoid all evil, which is a good lesson.  But the lesson God gave me with this vision is different.  And to the Church, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I ask you to please hear God’s lesson.

Today we, the Church, have closed our eyes, ears, and mouth.  We’re no longer bold like Stephen. We’ve closed our eyes to the lost, our ears to God’s word, and shut our mouth when we should be God’s mouthpiece to those that need Him.  We’ve allowed ourselves to be censored.  

Let’s get real.  When COVID shut down our churches, we didn’t all feel bad about it.  We didn’t fight it.  We lived in fear instead of faith and were happy to stay home, myself included.  We realized we could sleep in on Sunday’s and that was ok.  Some of us still haven’t gone back to church. 

We stopped even teaching our children the stories of the Bible.  We stop teaching them the controversial Ten Commandments.  Instead, we are letting the world teach them their morals and values.  I shudder to think what this generation will be like as adults.  Parents, I beg you, please don’t create a Godless life for your children!  Teach them about Jesus because no one else will!  Today, they need Him and His Holy Spirit within them more than ever to guide them.

But the church has not gone completely silent.  We’ve gotten up in arms without extending our arms. We’re quick to stand for what we don’t like!  We turn our backs on anyone with political beliefs different from our own. 

We talk and post about abortion being a sin – without considering the thousands of women who are still suffering from making that decision.  Is there not a Christian message to be delivered instead? 

We point our fingers at anyone that lives differently from us without once befriending them.  “But they live in outright sin!” News flash! Yes, and so do you!  Note that homosexuality is not one of the sins that are pointed out as one of the seven abominations to God - but lying tops the list.  Can you not show them the same love Jesus has shown to you? 

We are disobedient to the commandment we were given to love one another.  The drug addict, the murderers, the criminals with guns, we don’t reach out to any of them.  Where’s the fight FOR the addicts and deals, FOR those that don’t respect live, FOR those that will end up in jail?

I can’t think of a greater sin than robbing someone of the opportunity to know Jesus.  Brothers and Sister, if people turn away from Jesus because of our offensiveness or our political position, we have picked up a weapon we most likely never consciously intended to use. And it’s worse than deadly.  It has eternal weight.

Brothers and sisters, if you want to bring people to Jesus, you need to first show them His love through you.  Jesus did not call us to condemn, but to love one another even as He loves us – unto death.  We are all looking for unconditional love.

Even amid friends, we don’t bring up Jesus, our most prized possession, because we fear we’d be looked at as radicals, “crazy Christians”, or “weak minded people believing in the unknown”.  It’s not only our boldness that’s gone, but it’s our love for others.  We don’t want to feel “uncomfortable” in talking about Christ. 

When we become silent, we’re useless.  If you cannot stand for Jesus, how can you say you love God?  God provided Jesus for all people.  But He provides us with one commission: Go into all the world teaching them about Jesus, and baptizing them in the name of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

Friends, the Evil of this world is not just the devil’s doing.  We have not fought against it.  We’ve given up.  We’ve raised our hands over our ears, our mouths, and our eyes.  We’ve secluded ourselves from evil, and in doing so excluded all who need Jesus.

How can we change the world if we refuse to see those in need? How can we know what to speak to those who need comfort if we refuse to talk to them?  If you’re unwilling to hear the cries of those in pain, how can you love them? If you won’t even make eye contact with those that are suffering, how will they know you care?   Family of God, we can no longer be deaf, blind, and mute in this world. 

As my pastor said this morning, we should be the full display of Jesus to everyone we meet.  And if Jesus isn’t shining through, we need to get on our knees and get it right.  The clock is ticking.  And one day we will stand and give account for our actions, and our inactions.  I don’t know a lot about Judgement Day, but I pray we do not see those that are told “Depart from me, I never knew you” fall into Hell.  I fear the familiar faces that would condemn us.


Father God, I pray you let my words be soft on each heart that reads them.  I pray they cause hearts to turn to you.  I pray Father that you change me by what you’ve taught me this day and make me aware of those I don’t speak to that need you.  Use me in your service and give me second chances when I fail.  In Jesus name, Amen.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

God’s Divine Strategy



And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Today my pastor talked about growth, and how growth only comes through pain.  It’s very true that growth hurts, whether it’s physical, spiritual, or emotional.  We grow through pain.

Losing my best friend, Pauletta, has been painful.  It’s been a month and two days since she went to Heaven.  Her death left a hole that no one can fill in my life. 

I thought one day of writing it out as a “Wanted” ad and just wait to see who would fit.  It would go something like this: 

Wanted: Best friend for life.  Must be willing to correct me when I’m wrong and never let me slide.  Must continually remind me of all my past mistakes and show photos that will show how crazy I was.  Must do it with laughter and jokes to make me laugh at myself.  Must be willing to come to me crying so I can return the favor and make her laugh.  Must be willing to hear my fears and cast them down.  Must hear my excitement and pretend to understand what just happened that day even if you don’t.  Must be willing to put up with my inconsistent friendship, as I may go weeks without calling.  Must be willing to reach out to me when I go silent. “

At that point I realized, there will never be another Pauletta.  Never.  God created her as a custom-made friend for me.  She filled all the crazy ways I have, and I filled hers.  God is like that!  He customizes our relationships – divinely – and does it to His glory. 

I grew so much with Pauletta in my life.  She truly brought me closer to God.  She made me accountable for missing church, not studying my Bible, slacking at being a mom, not talking like a Christian should, and so much more.  My punishment would always be the same.  The phone would ring, and I’d hear her loud voice,  “Heathen!”! LOL! As time went on the roles changed a bit, and I got to remind her to go to church and tell her what God’s word said.  I got to tell her she was a good mom, and that she was a strong person.  I got to dry her tears with laughter.  We grew together like two trees with the same roots.  We were planted together and rooted by God.

Many times, I’ve tried to make sense of it.  Why would God take her from me?  Why couldn’t we grow old together, be in our seventies or eighties lounging on a beach in swimwear to gross out the youngsters?  Why couldn’t we be nursing home roommates, and torture each other with our snoring and loud talking?  Why couldn’t see be the friend that I would continually text all my crazy ideas to?

It’s funny how God will give an answer sometimes.  While asking the questions I got a very clear vision of a checkerboard.  My Momma Pearl used to play often and taught me how to play. She was a great strategist when it came to checkers.  Her steps were orchestrated for the big win.  She and my Great-Grandfather Lev (Papaw) would play when they were together.  Eventually Papaw would see he couldn’t win, and he’d throw the checkerboard so he wouldn’t have to “officially” lose! It was hilarious! 

The checkerboard I saw was one black checker being jumped and removed. One checker.  But then my side of the board had an open line to multiple jumps – taking lots of red checkers.  Sometimes playing checkers you must give one up to make the strategy work, to win. 

I think what God was telling me in that short vision was that I had to give her up to grow in what is His purpose for me.  And she needed to go to Heaven for His perfect purpose for her. 

Nothing in life is spontaneous when you know God is in control of everything.  It was not by chance that my pastor preached on growth causing pain this morning.  It hurt to lose her, and it still does.  Sometimes I just want to hear the phone ring, see the picture of her face light up on the phone and her say, “what are you doing?”.  Then we’d sit and talk about things past, present, and future for an hour or more.

God left a hole in my life to be filled by something else, someone else, something I have yet to understand.  But I know He will fill it.  He’s doing a new thing.  And though I don’t see the blueprint, I know the designer!  And if the weight of the pain is anything comparable to what is coming, it’s going to be good. Real good.