Monday, September 16, 2019

ZACCHAEUS


When you hear the name Zacchaeus what comes to mind? Does the children's song that was written about him pop in your head like it does mine? Do you automatically associate the words "wee little man" with him? I've been sitting with the story of Zacchaeus (found in Luke 19:1-10) for the last month and have grown very fond of him. I have so many questions I want to ask him and things I want to talk to him about.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector and at that time in history they were some of the most despised humans. They were Jews working for the much hated Romans. They were considered traitors and were on the same level as thieves and murderers. They were despised, they weren't allowed in the Temple or Synagogues, their money was considered defiled, their testimony wasn't even admissible in court. They were HATED -- and this is the identity of our wee little man Zacchaeus. I imagine his small stature was nothing compared to how small the other Jews and Pharisees made him feel.

His story begins by telling us that Jesus had entered Jericho and was passing through [on His way to Jerusalem]. A large crowd had formed and Luke tells us in verse 3 that Zacchaeus was DESPERATE to see Jesus but couldn't. It makes me wonder... Did anyone even think to invite Zacchaeus to see Jesus? Did anyone even notice him trying get through? What has happened at this point in his life that makes him so desperate? And then, the question that haunts me -- How is it possible for a crowd of Jesus-followers to not notice the people who slip in the back, desperate for what Jesus has to offer, and go completely unnoticed by the very people who have claimed to received His grace, mercy and love? 

Then, Zacchaeus made a decision that I believe changed his life forever. He left the crowd, ran ahead, and climbed a tree. He didn't wait to see if Jesus would notice him, but instead, in his desperate attempt to see Jesus, he looked ahead at where Jesus was going and he positioned himself so he could see Him! This one decision reminds me that... (1) Jesus doesn't stand still so neither can my walk with Him. (2) I have to be willing to leave the crowd and get alone for my walk with Jesus to be personal and intimate. (3) I need to make sure the trees I climb are actually along the path of where Jesus is headed because expecting Him to detour to where I am because I'm comfortable and don't want to move will never work.

The story continues, telling us that Jesus stopped, looked up, and told Zacchaeus to hurry down because he wanted to hang out with him. But the people were indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook? Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, 'Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.'” I just want to hug him at this point because he handed us something so beautiful...
  • When you position yourself to see Jesus, you also position yourself to have your mess exposed. And as scary as that sounds, the truth is that is the very place where Jesus wants to offer you grace.
  • Jesus is not embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted or repulsed by your sin. Your past doesn't define you or disqualify you!
  • In His immense love for us, Jesus will always hand us grace and mercy before He brings the truth into the light.
  • Freedom is never found in the hidden places. In the light, truth is revealed, lies are exposed, and chains are broken.
The story of Zacchaeus is a powerful story. His story starts the same as yours and mine- "Jesus entered..." Right where you are today, Jesus desires to have a life-changing encounter with you. I challenge you today to forget what you thought you knew about Zacchaeus and sit his story long enough for the scriptures to read you. Then, take a minute to ask yourself, "what is the Holy Spirit saying to me?"

Saturday, September 14, 2019

HOPE-FILLED FUTURE IN A SEASON OF EXILE


Like many verses in the Bible, when you pull them out and let them sit by themselves, they can be so encouraging, so hope-filled. The only problem is when you do that, you lose the context in which the word or promise was given and it can cause you to feel discouraged or defeated.

Take Jeremiah 29:11. It's an amazing verse that tells us that God has plans for us and those plans are to prosper us, not harm us, and they are going to give us hope and a future! Amazing right! Sign me up for no harm (pain, suffering, hard) and put me down for a future filled with hope and prosperity!!! But...

I seriously doubt the people reading those words framed them and hung them on their walls. You see, these words were sent in a letter to the Israelites who were taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. God quickly clarified how/why the exile happened, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I HAVE SENT INTO EXILE from Jerusalem to Babylon..." It may have appeared that Nebuchadnezzar took them, but make no mistake, God sent them there. The letter continues, "build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they my bear sons and daughters; multiply there."

Can you image getting a letter from one of God's prophets that basically says, no reason to be mad at the king or the people in Babylon, I AM the one who sent you there. And don't live out of your suitcase thinking this is going to be a quick trip, unpack your stuff and build a life because you're going to be there for a while. Oh yea, and pray for the city where you are being held captive to prosper because only as it prospers will you prosper. Then, right before the famous 29:11, God says "when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place... FOR I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU..."

If I were them, I would be thinking -- God wants to prosper me... but only if I pray for Him to prosper my enemies. God doesn't want to harm me... but yet He allowed me to be taken from my home and family to a foreign land. God wants to give me a hope... but He wants me to build a life here and wants my children to marry their children. God wants to give me a future... but I am going to be here for 70 years and I'll likely die here.

Isaiah reminds us that God's thoughts and ways are NOT our thoughts and ways. They are much HIGHER and much BIGGER! Jeremiah 29:11 is not a verse for me to take as my own and apply to my life. It is a line in a letter that gives perspective. In light of eternity, I am on this earth for a few short years. But God... He has been writing a story for thousands of years if I choose to allow my story to interact with His story, if I seek to see my story in His story, then I have to be ok with the hard and the messy. It's not about me but it is about Him and His glory.

If you find yourself in a season of exile, be encouraged by the promise he continued to give the Israelites, "...when you call on me, when you come and pray, I will listen. When you come looking for me you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and wanting it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed. I'll turn things around for you..."

Seasons of exile allows for space. Space to start over. Space to regroup. Space to plant new seeds. Space to build/create new things. Space to meet new people. Space to impact the world around you for the Gospel. Space to sit at the feet of Jesus. Space to slow down so you can see your story in light of God's story.

Don't sit around waiting for the promise of a future hope. Lean in and get to work right where God has you.

Monday, September 2, 2019

LODGEPOLE PINES


Lodgepole Pines make up about 75% of the trees in the Grand Teton National Park. They were are not particularly beautiful or fascinating to me until I learned about them, their cones, and how they reproduce.

Lodgepole pine cones can stay on the tree for decades. The cones are covered with a resin that keeps them tightly sealed, which means their seeds are locked inside. The cones can not open unless exposed to very high temperatures. It is only in a fire that the cones can open and release the seeds that are patiently waiting to bring new life where destruction has passed through - and it is only the heat of a fire that germinate the seeds. The seeds love the carbon rich soil that the fire leaves behind and the seedlings pop up almost immediately. 

Pain. Suffering. Fire.

How can something that destroys be the very thing that brings forth beauty? That births new life? It doesn’t make sense to our human minds, but it is often the way God works in the lives of His children. He doesn’t cause the fire, it’s part of a broken fallen world, but, if we let Him, He can use the fire for our good and for His glory. The seeds of life that are released because of our pain and suffering can proclaim the glory of God like nothing else.

“I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us.” {Romans 8:18}

“All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is the Father of tender mercy and the God is endless comfort. He always comes alongside us to comfort is in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial.” {2 Corinthians 1:3-4a}

“And then, after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in His eternal glory in Christ, will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger then ever. Yes, He will set you firmly in place and build you us.” {1 Peter 5:10}


If you are in a season where the fires of life seem to continue to creep closer and closer, I pray that you will stand firm with great anticipation that the Lord will exchange “beauty for ashes.”

Friday, August 30, 2019

WYOMING


"What's in Wyoming?" That was the question I was asked when I told a friend Keith and I were going away for a few days. My answer, "Nothing and Everything!" It is the most beautiful place I've every been. I told Keith a dozen times that I could not possibly take in any more beauty and then would get teary eyed at something else that would take my breath away.

When we were leaving to fly home Tuesday, I was telling God that I could not believe that He made such beautiful things for us to look at and delight in. So amazing. I immediately heard (in my Spirit) God say, "ask me what I find beautiful and delightful." I knew immediately what He was wanting to teach me...

"For the Lord take pleasure in his people." {Psalm 149:4}


"The Lord take pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." {Psalm 147:11}

"...for the Lord delights in you" {Isaiah 62:4}

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you." {Song of Solomon 4:7}

"His love broke open the way and he brought me into a beautiful broad place. He rescued me—because his delight is in me!" {Psalm 18:19}

"For thus says the LORD of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye." {Zechariah 2:8}

"The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous..." {Psalm 34:15}


"For we are God's handiwork..." {Ephesians 2:10}

And if that's not enough, God says "how beautiful on the mountains are the sandaled feet of this one bringing such good news. You are truly royalty! The way you walk so gracefully in my ways displays such dignity. You are truly the poetry of God—his very handiwork." Notice that God didn't say the mountain was beautiful, but YOU are beautiful. I look and see the mountain and am in awe and yet God, He sees ME, He sees YOU, and He is so delighted!

I pray that you are overwhelmed with God's immense love for you today!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

TWENTY-THREE YEARS


The longer I'm married and the longer Keith and I pour our lives into marriage ministry, the more I find myself asking God to forgive us, the Church, for doing such a poor job at displaying marriage to the world.

Like it or not, your marriage reveals to a lost world what it looks like to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  So, what is the story your marriage is telling?  You should be able to say to someone who doesn't know God, "watch the way I love, forgive, serve, treat, and speak to my spouse and you will know what it looks like to be in a relationship with Jesus."  Would people want to know more about Jesus or would they want nothing to do with Him?  I am constantly amazed and continuously humbled that God allows broken, jacked-up humans to share His story of love, grace, and forgiveness.

Marriage was and is God's idea and I think it's important to remember that it was designed to be a forever relationship -on this Earth.  The engaged couples that we counsel don't particularly like it when we tell them that the marriage they are obsessed with and are actively preparing for is only for this Earth.  But we tell them that because we know that the only way for their marriage on this Earth to be successful is for them to do life with that perspective.

In the last book of the Bible it says, "Let us be full of joy and be glad. Let us honor Him, for the time has come for the wedding supper of the Lamb. His bride has made herself ready. She was given clean, white, fine linen clothes to wear. The fine linen is the right living of God’s people.” As a Christian, whether you are married or single, you are to live everyday actively preparing yourself for your marriage with Christ.  Your relationship with Him is the only Eternal relationship so you should be obsessed with Him!  In fact, I believe the gap between your love for God and your love for your spouse, children, friends, parents, etc. should be MASSIVE.  Looking to Jesus to meet your core human needs - acceptance, identity, security, and purpose - is the only way you will be satisfied and be able to relate in a healthy way with your spouse and others.

Keith and I celebrate 23 years of marriage today. I f I could go back and give my 22 year old self some marriage advice, it would tell her... 
(1) make it your life's mission to know God's Word (2) search the Scripture and learn the true character of the God of the Bible (3) the moment you made a covenant with God a war for your marriage and family began so learn to do life in the spiritual realm (4) your role is to partner with God to help Keith become who God purposed him to be and to help Keith prepare for his marriage with Christ and (5) keep your heart tender toward Keith by adopting a posture of forgiveness because it will disarm the enemy in ways you can't imagine.

Hey 22 year old Jackie, did you notice that my advice to you actually has nothing to do with Keith but everything to do with your relationship with Jesus?  Don't forget it.  It will literally ruin your relationship if you do!

Keith Harmon, there is no one in this world that I would rather do life with than you.  You make me more like Jesus by the way you live and love.  You are the greatest human I know and one of God's greatest gifts to me. Love you 
❤️