Overcoming rejection with Zacchaeus

“No one likes me, I’m a reject” is the lie we all believe at one time or other. We can overcome it with Zacchaeus.

“He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Even if he’s in the midst of a crowd, Jesus’ only focus is on a small man who’s feeling like a reject. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Tax collectors were seen to be dishonest cheaters and were hated by many. Zacchaeus was hiding in a tree but Jesus saw him and had his focus on him.

When you feel like a reject in the middle of a crowded place and you feel like you don’t fit in, and when you see that everyone else gets more attention than you, you need to know something. Jesus isn’t focused on the thousands who are accepted, happy, and have it all figured out. He is focused on you. Even if you’re surrounded by people you think to be better and more worthy than you, Jesus chooses to set his eyes on you and to make you the center of his attention.

Even if religion and church has rejected you, then it means that Jesus wants to come and visit you at your house. Seriously. He doesn’t even tell Zacchaeus “Hey, I know another place where you can go in and be accepted and you can hang out there.” Jesus doesn’t send Zacchaeus somewhere else to feel accepted. Jesus wants Zacchaeus for Himself. He wants to be a real friend to Zacchaeus. So, it’s as if Jesus tells him, “Hey, let’s go home. I know that the temples around you are so religious and corrupt and they don’t really like you, so we’ll stay home. I don’t even want to go into those temples either. I would prefer to come to your house. I’m going to come over, not just for a little bit, but I want to stay there with you all day. We’ll talk like friends at your place. We’ll talk about your hurt and your pains. We’ll talk about what’s bothering you. We’ll fix things and from that point onward, you’ll feel better and your life will get better. I’m not going to accuse you or put you down. While we’re talking together, if there’s any wrongs you feel you still need to make right, I’ll help you do that. “

A Revelation 12 Christmas

 

A revelation/spiritual realm perspective of the Christmas story from the book “The Jesus I Never Knew”

There is one more view of Christmas I have never seen on a Christmas card, probably because no artist, not even William Blake, could do it justice. Revelation 12 pulls back the curtain to give us a glimpse of Christmas as it must have looked from somewhere far beyond Andromeda: Christmas from the angels’ viewpoint.

The account differs radically from the birth stories in the Gospels. Revelation does not mention shepherds and an infanticidal king; rather, it pictures a dragon leading a ferocious struggle in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun and wearing a crown of twelve stars cries out in pain as she is about to give birth. Suddenly the enormous red dragon enters the picture, his tail sweeping a third of the stars out of the sky and flinging them to the earth. He crouches hungrily before the woman, anxious to devour her child the moment it is born. At the last second the infant is snatched away to safety, the woman flees into the desert, and all-out cosmic war begins.

In daily life two parallel histories occur simultaneously, one on earth and one in heaven. Revelation, however, views them together, allowing a quick look behind the scenes. On earth a baby was born, a king got wind of it, a chase ensued. In heaven the Great Invasion had begun, a daring raid by the ruler of the forces of good into the universe’s seat of evil.

As a Christian I believe that we live in parallel worlds. One world consists of hills and lakes and barns and politicians and shepherds watching their flocks by night. The other consists of angels and sinister forces – and somewhere out there places called heaven and hell. One night in the cold, in the dark, among the wrinkled hills of Bethlehem, those two worlds came together at a dramatic point of intersection. God, who knows no before or after, entered time and space. God, who knows no boundaries took on the shocking con-fines of a baby’s skin, the ominous restraints of mortality.

 

 

 

The temptation requests were not evil

The temptation requests in the desert that were made to Jesus were not evil requests in themselves. Jesus’ response to these requests reveal to us how much He values free will and unforced love. Here are some quotes from the book “The Jesus I Never Knew”.

Satan asked Jesus to turn a stone into bread, offered him all the kingdoms of the world, and urged him to jump from a high place in order to test God’s promise of physical safety. Where is the evil in these requests? The three temptations seem like Jesus’ prerogatives, the very qualities to be expected in a Messiah. Would not Jesus go on to multiply bread for five thousand, a far more impressive display? He would also conquer death and rise again to become King of Kings. The three temptations do not seem evil in themselves—and yet clearly something pivotal happened in the desert.

As I look back on the three temptations, I see that Satan proposed an enticing improvement. He tempted Jesus toward the good parts of being human without the bad: to savor the taste of bread without being subject to the fixed rules of hunger and of agriculture, to confront risk with no real danger, to enjoy fame and power without the prospect of painful rejection—in short, to wear a crown but not a cross. (The temptation that Jesus resisted, many of us, his followers, still long for.)

Why not go with the temptation? The Roman authorities distributed free bread to promote Caesar’s kingdom, and Jesus could do the same to promote his…

Jesus had but to give a nod of agreement and he could have constructed Christendom, not on four shaky Gospels and a defeated man nailed on a Cross, but on a basis of sound socio- economic planning and principles…. Every utopia could have been brought to pass, every hope have been realized and every dream been made to come true. What a benefactor, then, Jesus would have been. Instead, he turned the offer down on the ground that only God should be worshipped.

As Muggeridge sees it, the Temptation revolved around the question uppermost in the minds of Jesus’ countrymen: What should the Messiah look like? A People’s Messiah who could turn stones into bread to feed the multitudes? A Torah Messiah, standing tall at the lofty pinnacle of the temple? A King Messiah, ruling over not just Israel but all the kingdoms of earth? In short, Satan was offering Jesus the chance to be the thundering Messiah we think we want.

The Temptation in the desert reveals a profound difference between God’s power and Satan’s power. Satan has the power to coerce, to dazzle, to force obedience, to destroy. Humans have learned much from that power, and governments draw deeply from its reservoir. With a bullwhip or a billy club or an AK-47, human beings can force other human beings to do just about anything they want. Satan’s power is external and coercive.

 God’s power, in contrast, is internal and noncoercive. “You would not enslave man by a miracle, and craved faith given freely, not based on miracle,” said the Inquisitor to Jesus in Dostoevsky’s novel. Such power may seem at times like weakness. In its commitment to trans- form gently from the inside out and in its relentless dependence on human choice, God’s power may resemble a kind of abdication. As every parent and every lover knows, love can be rendered powerless if the beloved chooses to spurn it.

 The miracles Satan suggested, the signs and wonders the Pharisees demanded, the final proofs I yearn for—these would offer no serious obstacle to an omnipotent God. More amazing is his refusal to perform and to overwhelm. God’s terrible insistence on human freedom is so absolute that he granted us the power to live as though he did not exist, to spit in his face, to crucify him. All this Jesus must have known as he faced down the tempter in the desert, focusing his mighty power on the energy of restraint.

God made himself weak for one purpose: to let human beings choose freely for themselves what to do with him

It’s ok to feel ready to leave

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize them by their fruits. Their church leadership position can make them appear holy and right and mask their bad fruits. When you shop for fruits at the grocery store, you need to look past the layers of coloring and wax that cover the bad fruit on the shelf in order to truly see the condition of that fruit. Their goal is to sell you bad fruit by making it seem good and covering up its defects. The same is true with bad leadership in a church and the same careful checking is needed.

Don’t worry about leaving bad leaders. Jesus’ greatest warning to his disciples was to guard themselves against false teachers and to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees – something they didn’t really understand. In the same way today, we don’t really understand the severity of Jesus’ warnings against false or crooked leaders. We’ll talk to ourselves and say things like: Leave my leader? He’s a church leader. He’s been one for years. He can’t be that bad if he’s a church leader. Sure he has flaws and I see signs of crooked/abusive/corrupt dealings, but maybe I’m being too critical and unloving. Maybe I need to be more forgiving and loving toward him and he will change. He told me he’s my spiritual father. He told me it’s against God’s will for me to go anywhere else. He told me I’d be cursed if I leave him. Leave my leader? Really?
Like the disciples, we too need to understand what Jesus meant when he told them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and why He was so serious about it. The false teachings and practices of corrupt and abusive leaders infiltrate our sincere desire for God very subtly like leaven in dough, and they begin dominating and corrupting our mind and soul, just as the leaven dominates the dough.

 Jesus is ready to throw corrupt and abusive leaders in fire, so it’s ok if you feel ready to leave them.

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew‬ ‭7:19‬ ‭

Blessings and character

God releases his blessing upon us according to the amount of character that we have allowed Him to develop in us.

God does not measure time. It’s now about how long you wait for something, but about how much you allow God into your life and allow Him to transform you in order to prepare you to receive that something. God measures our growth, not time. If God wants to take 5 years to develop me in an area but I resist him and complain, and run away for all that time, then my lack of growth can extend my development process in that area.