Glory-Strength

I discovered last week that lifting an oversized leather couch needs to be done carefully. I was not careful. I instantly felt a tear in the muscles of my ribcage, known as an intercostal muscle strain. It happens when you twist and lift. Apparently, you can twist OR lift, but not at the same time. I spent the rest of the week going about my chores as I helped my daughter and son-in-law move into a new house gritting my teeth as had to bend, lift, move, and breathe my way through the discomfort. Fortunately, this is a mishap that heals itself, but over a week later I still can’t sleep on that side.

Paul talks about the difference between real strength and teeth-gritting strength. I can relate. Had I had real strength for lifting the couch, I wouldn’t have had to grit my teeth for a week. Perhaps real strength would have involved knowing the limits of my own strength and realizing I was in over my head.

In this letter to the church at Colossae, Paul is commending the people for their growth in their faith. Growing in faith requires some heavy lifting.

Colossians 1 (The Message)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

In this Message translation, Paul calls the long-haul strength that faith building requires “glory-strength.” Don’t you just love that? He encourages the followers to keep working hard at it, staying attuned to God’s will and learning about how God works. Always the encourager, Paul tells them that in his prayers he asks God to give them wise minds so they might acquire a complete understanding of God. He reminds us that God makes them strong enough to do what they need to do.

Do you need to be reminded of that today?

13-14 God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.

Some of us may feel that we are still in dead-end alleys or dark dungeons. Sin, hopelessness, addiction, abusive relationships, etc. keep us trapped in doom pits and we need a way out. Thankfully, Christ provides it:

Christ Holds It All Together

15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so expansive, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Read that again. All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe get properly fixed and fit together by Christ. The blood of the atonement brings us to a state of at-one-ment with God and his purpose for our lives. In him we live, breath, and find our being. And he is the greatest fixer of all that is broken.

Are you broken today? Do you need be fixed? Are you gritting your teeth because your strength is failing? Seek God and his glory-strength and he will restore harmony to your soul.

Glory-Strength by Karen DeBellis

Hold Fast

Have you ever had to take an unpopular position amidst a group of people during a debate? It can be uncomfortable to say the least. Being the lone holdout when a group is making a decision that you feel in your gut is wrong can cause your blood pressure to rise and your palms to sweat. Do you speak out? Do you risk rejection and embarrassment? Do you make your case and work to persuade them to your side?

Some people live for those moments while the rest of us run for the hills. If you are in the latter group, you are in good company.

In the 21st chapter of Luke, Jesus instructed his disciples to be ready to make the case for him against the masses who will reject and disown them for their beliefs. He contends that their parents, friends, and relatives will reject, abuse, and even execute some of them for believing that he is Messiah. He uses the destruction of the temple, which will happen 40 years after his death, as a place to begin the conversation:

Luke 21 (Common English Bible)

Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”

They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?”

This is a good reminder to us today to not put our faith or hope in things that are temporal. Our beautiful, bejeweled sanctuaries will all fall away. When we focus our time, resources, and energy into places and things, we betray our mission on earth. Time and monies are better spent making disciples than making places. Moth and rust corrupt buildings but building a community of Jesus followers lasts forever. Where is your church deploying its resources?

Jesus said, “Watch out that you aren’t deceived. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ and ‘It’s time!’ Don’t follow them. When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end won’t happen immediately.”

After Jesus died, the disciples and the new church they formed were in great peril. Jerusalem was besieged by hostile forces and each disciple died an ignominious death because they chose to make the case for Christ-crucified. Could you be that bold in a world that rejected him?

10 Then Jesus said to them, “Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. 11 There will be great earthquakes and wide-scale food shortages and epidemics. There will also be terrifying sights and great signs in the sky.12 But before all this occurs, they will take you into custody and harass you because of your faith. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.13 This will provide you with an opportunity to testify. 14 Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance. 15 I’ll give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to counter or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends. They will execute some of you. 17 Everyone will hate you because of my name. 18 Still, not a hair on your heads will be lost. 19 By holding fast, you will gain your lives.

Some may read this today and conclude that we are in the end-times based on Jesus’ prophecy. What do you think?

In any case, remember that we are called to hold fast to our beliefs and stand firm on the word of God. In the end, when it all falls away, this will be the only thing that lasts. By holding fast, you will gain your life. Thanks be to God!

Hold Fast by Michelle Robertson

Sing-A-Song

I belong to a clergywomen’s Face Book page and a question was asked recently about planning a Lessons and Carols service for Advent. It caught me a little off guard, as I haven’t even started to think about Thanksgiving dinner yet, but as you know, pastors have to be thinking way ahead. I have always loved Lessons and Carols, as it tells the nativity story in alternating Scripture readings and hymns. It is a full audience participation kind of thing, and when I say it tells the story, it begins in Genesis with a reminder of why we needed Jesus in the first place.

It wasn’t very long ago that we couldn’t even sing in the sanctuary together due to pandemic protocols, and so singing is a blessing that we have learned not to take for granted anymore. After months of online worship and then months of no congregational singing as we cautiously worshipped in masks with an aim of reducing potential viral transmission, we finally arrived at that wonderful Sunday where singing was permitted.

I wept that day.

Singing has always been an important part of worship for me. I grew up in a singing family, and we sang together in perfect harmony on every long car ride. My father sang in a Barbershop Chorus right up until the day he died, and my parents funded six years of private voice lessons for me in order to encourage a singing lifestyle as I grew up.

Today’s psalm encourages us to SING. We are invited to sing a new song and tell of God’s loyal love and faithfulness through every generation.

Psalm 98 (Common English Bible)

Sing to the Lord a new song
    because he has done wonderful things!
His own strong hand and his own holy arm
    have won the victory!
The Lord has made his salvation widely known;
    he has revealed his righteousness
    in the eyes of all the nations.
God has remembered his loyal love
    and faithfulness to the house of Israel;
    every corner of the earth has seen our God’s salvation.

The level of joy in this psalm is off the charts. The psalmist encourages us to shout triumphantly, rejoice, be happy, and praise God.

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
    Be happy!
    Rejoice out loud!
    Sing your praises!
Sing your praises to the Lord with the lyre—
    with the lyre and the sound of music.
With trumpets and a horn blast,
    shout triumphantly before the Lord, the king!

Even the sounds of creation are invited to sing along:

Let the sea and everything in it roar;
    the world and all its inhabitants too.
Let all the rivers clap their hands;
    let the mountains rejoice out loud altogether before the Lord
    because he is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly;
    he will establish justice among all people fairly.

The promise that God will establish justice in the world is enough to sing about. What does that mean to you? Are you weary of politics, wars, strife, and disobedience? Are you worn out with everything?

Today’s psalm is the perfect antidote to our ennui. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, do one thing: just sing.

Sing a New Song by Michelle Robertson

Promises, Promises

How often do you make a promise? If you are raising children, you may find yourself making promises every day. Some promises are small and take the form of bribes, such as “If you get in your car seat without whining, I promise we’ll stop and get ice cream.” Some are life-long, such as sending a child off to college with the promise of your financial support and your availability by phone at any hour of the day if they need you. We make promises at the wedding altar, when we sign a job contract, at a confirmation service, in court, and in most of our significant relationships. Promises give us hope for the future.

In contrast, broken promises can be devastating. Anyone who has gone through a divorce know this deeply. The fracturing of trust, the death of a future, and the finality of a promise that will never be fulfilled can be crippling. When we make promises that we know we cannot keep, we risk stealing another person’s joy and stability.

Do you know who has never broken a promise? God.

This amazing passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah is a beautifully articulated promise of God that New Testament readers will instantly identify as a prophesy about the reign of Jesus when he returns to earth. Hints of both the millennial earth and the eternal heaven are found in this passage, and you may recognize similar themes in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. As the nation of Israel heard this, they received a promise of a restored Jerusalem and a future with hope:

Isaiah 65 (Common English Bible)


Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth:
    past events won’t be remembered;
    they won’t come to mind.
18 Be glad and rejoice forever
    in what I’m creating,
    because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy
    and her people as a source of gladness.

I think that the phrase “past events won’t be remembered” and “I’m creating a joy” are inextricably linked. Think about it: real joy may only be attainable in a state where past events aren’t remembered. What can close that gap for us in many situations is forgiveness. Even in the worst moments of broken promises, when both parties learn to forgive, move on, and put the past in the past, we can enter into a new place of gladness. I have a friend who was going to be alone on Christmas Day, as her adult daughter was committed to go to her father’s family for Christmas. My friend’s Ex realized this and invited my friend to come along, and they had a lovely dinner with their daughter. It can happen!

19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people.
    No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.
20 No more will babies live only a few days,
    or the old fail to live out their days.
The one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person,
    and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed.
21 They will build houses and live in them;
    they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They won’t build for others to live in,
    nor plant for others to eat.
Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people;
    my chosen will make full use of their handiwork.

God’s future promise here is a guarantee of social justice. Each person will work and keep their harvest for their own families, and nobody will be enslaved or beholden to anyone anymore.

23 They won’t labor in vain,
    nor bear children to a world of horrors,
    because they will be people blessed by the Lord,
    they along with their descendants.
24 Before they call, I will answer;
    while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 Wolf and lamb will graze together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
    but the snake—its food will be dust.
They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain,
    says the Lord.

The take-away for today is found in verse 24: “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” That is a promise that God makes to you that will never be broken. When Christ comes back to reign, even the wolf and the lamb will get along and peace and harmony will rule the earth.

Are you making promises you can’t keep? Do you need to be reminded today that God never breaks a promise? Can forgiveness heal your heart over a broken promise? What is God calling you to do in response to this Scripture?

Whatever it is, know that God has the answer ready before you even ask. That’s a promise.

Promises in the Sand by Michelle Robertson

Unrevealed

I am working on writing content for a retreat that I will be doing on February 4th at the Midway United Methodist Church in Cumming, Georgia. It will focus on finding your voice in every season of life, and the four seasons will create the framework for the experience. We will explore the summer season as a time to be still and know that he is God and find rest in allowing God to act on our behalf while we wait and watch. Our fall focus will be on the abundant and bountiful harvest that comes with life in Christ. As we move into winter, we will have an opportunity to die to things that separate us from God, so that in the spring session, we can celebrate renewed life in Christ as we anticipate the resurrection.

As I write, work, and dream about this event, a line from a favorite hymn keeps popping into my mind:

In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be!  Unrevealed until its season…something God alone can see.

These beautiful words from Natalie Sleeth’s Hymn of Promise speak of all kinds of good things. They remind us that cold Januarys turn into sunny Junes. They speak of change. They offer promise. They speak of God’s ability to see our potential when all we see is failure. They tell us about growth. Most of all, these words speak of the promise of the resurrection.

I can remember the first time I sang this song. It was at a funeral in my church in Georgia. I recall standing in our sanctuary on Windgate Rd. and looking out at the people who had gathered to say goodbye to their loved one. Sleeth’s imagery in the midst of death struck a chord with me that day that has reverberated each time I have sung it, as it speaks to a reality of life and death that we would rather not consider. 

Consider the final verse:

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last a victory…”

Sleeth is echoing the truth found in scripture regarding the resurrection:

Romans 6 (The Message)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.

 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

I think the idea of dying paralyzes us, and we become frozen-in-place. 

But maybe even more so, the idea of living is just as paralyzing. Just the IDEA of making necessary changes to the way we live freezes us in fear. The thought of letting go of anger, quitting drinking, releasing a long-held grudge, ending an affair, starting chemo, offering forgiveness to someone who hasn’t asked for it and doesn’t deserve it…. we become immobilized in our determination to not have to alter how we live in any way.

God wants so much more for us than that. This passage sets forth a challenge: we die with Christ, and we also live with Christ…but the life he lives, he lives for God. 

So should we.

We are stuck in cocoons of unhealthy habits and thoughtless words, but Sleeth likens us to butterflies who will soon be set free. We live in the darkness of our selfish behavior, but she reminds us we are just the ”dawn that waits to be.” In Sleeth’s poetry, we are a potential of something only God can see in us. 

It’s time to thaw out. It’s time to warm up and become the people God intended us to be: loving, giving, full of promise, ready to grow in him, and ready to be set free.

What will you do today to respond to God’s call to unfreeze your life? Is God calling you to make changes that will reveal your hidden promise? How can you be like Jesus and live your life for God? 

How about we start today? Let’s get moving.

”… unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see!”

Butterflies Will Soon Be Free by Kathy Schumacher

Do Unto Others

I have a happy memory of visiting my mother at the paint factory where she worked as the bookkeeper when I was very young. Occasionally my babysitter would drop me off there and I had to wait until mother’s workday was finished. The men in the factory were all like old, wizened uncles to me. One in particular was quite fond of me and always asked me about my day. He called me “Ornery.” It was many years before I knew the definition of that word … but I did like that he gave me a special nickname. Now that I think about it, his choice of words was rather prophetic.

This gentleman once gave me a real treasure. It was a solid green marble ball with a gold and black band around it that read: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I cherished this gift and hid it under my bed lest my sister try to take it from me. I often thought about the words and the generosity of that craggy old fellow.

I later learned that those words come from the Bible. Listen to this discourse from the book of Luke, as he records Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. We begin with the “blessed are you” portions:

Luke 6 (New International Version)

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

Jesus assured the hearers that the resurrection will reverse all of their current woes. Poverty, hunger, weeping, rejection, exclusion, insults … soon will come a time when earth passes away and a time of rejoicing will ensue.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

But woe to those who enjoy the affluence and wealth of this earthly existence, for that, too will pass away and their joy will be short-lived here on earth.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 

31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

So today, as you’re driving with angry drivers around you, when you are in rush at the grocery store and the cashier is taking too long, when annoying things happen at home, remember the solid green ball’s message that fascinated a child: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

This is the way.

Birds on a Wire by Michelle Robertson

Leaps and Bounds

If you have kids or grandkids, you have experienced the phenomenon of watching them grow by leaps and bounds. Our three-year old can tell you the entire table of contents of his favorite book. He couldn’t do that a week ago. The five-year old suddenly made two soccer goals. She couldn’t do that last year, mostly because she disliked the uniform. Something clicks in the mind and suddenly a child can do a thing that couldn’t be done previously. Well, mostly. This never happened to me when it came to Algebra. There was no leaping or bounding there for me.

I thought about that when I read today’s passage. Paul describes the faithfulness of the church at Thessalonica as growing by “leaps and bounds.” How does your faith grow? Is it leaping and bounding?

2 Thessalonians 1 (Common English Bible)

Brothers and sisters, we must always thank God for you. This is only right because your faithfulness is growing by leaps and bounds, and the love that all of you have for each other is increasing. That’s why we ourselves are bragging about you in God’s churches. We tell about your endurance and faithfulness in all the harassments and trouble that you have put up with.

I appreciate how you are incorporating a devotional into your day. Good on you! I want to encourage you to engage in other things that will help your faith to grow:

Regular corporate worship.

Volunteering in a ministry or mission.

Regular, meaningful giving of your financial resources.

Deep and constant prayer.

Imitating Christ in all that you do.

Paul says that growing by leaps and bounds in your faith makes you worthy of God’s calling and honors the name of Jesus.

11 We are constantly praying for you for this: that our God will make you worthy of his calling and accomplish every good desire and faithful work by his power. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored by you, and you will be honored by him, consistent with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

What do you need to do to grow your faith? Start now.

Leaps and Bounds by Rendy King

Happy Are Those

Here is what not to do next time you are traveling. Do not put your heavy laptop in your checked baggage. I realize most of you know this. I struggle with the weight of my laptop in my carry-on, so on a recent flight I changed my routine and put it in my suitcase so I wouldn’t have to lug it around the airport. It was a direct flight … what could go wrong?

All was well until my checked bag decided to take a trip to Buffalo, N.Y. Unfortunately, I got off the plane in Norfolk, VA. Because of the lateness of the flight to Buffalo, my suitcase could not be returned to me for another day. Lesson learned.

It is hard to carry heavy things. Isn’t it lovely when you find a way to set them down?

David knew all about carrying heavy things. His many sins weighed heavily upon him. If you run a checklist of the Ten Commandments, he broke almost every one. But David also knew the joy that comes with forgiveness after you lay that heavy sin at God’s feet and repent:

Psalm 37 (New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silent, my body wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I have admired the sacredness of the confessional booth. While protestants do not follow a practice of confessing sins to a priest, the visual example of that ornate box while sitting in a worship service must bring comfort to Catholics during mass. It is a visible, tangible reminder of the nearness of forgiveness.

All you have to do is come.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

Therefore let all who are faithful
    offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
    shall not reach them.

God is our hiding place, where we can take our sins into the sacredness of his presence and be assured of redemption. God hears us when we confess and delivers us from the harm that sin brings.

You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

Are you carrying a burden of sin that is just too heavy to keep lugging around? The “confessional booth” of God’s heart is always open.

Happy Are Those by Michelle Robertson

Separation

If you live far away from your family, you know the pain that separation can bring. Missing out on daily joys and activities is hard. Thank goodness for technology like FaceTime that allows us to see and hear each other, but nothing can replace a warm hug and the feeling of a three-year-old holding your hand.

One of the things that heaven promises is that when we get there, we will never be separated again:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39, NIV 1984) 

God’s perspective of death is that death is not the end. It is not final, nor is it forever. God’s perspective is that by the power of the resurrection there is a death of death, as believers receive eternal life upon their death. And so, the good news is that nothing can separate us permanently from God or our families … not even death.

This means that this time of painful separation is only temporaryWhile the rest of your life will be spent without the one you love, the rest of your life is but a blink of an eye in the scope of eternity. Just as those highly anticipated moments in our lives seem forever to get here, like kids who wait for Christmas or brides who wait for their wedding day, those events are but a blink of an eye in the scope of an eternal lifetime. If you have older children, think back about their toddler and elementary years. How often do we say, “I can’t believe how fast it went”? And yet each pregnancy was its own lifetime!

The problem with grieving is that it slooowwws down time. We become suspended in an artificial reality that is all too real. Days are long and nights are longer because we are stuck in the moment of our crisis like a fly caught in tree sap. Our movements and our thoughts are sluggish. It takes forever to get simple things done, to make sentences come together, to remember why we have walked into a particular room. It is not uncommon to forget even names of friends and acquaintances after the shock of a death. Grief can make us feel as though we are swimming in tar, trying to reach a distant shore that keeps moving farther away and the swim is taking forever. Embracing God’s perspective that death and mourning are only temporary states can begin to help us shake off our sluggishness and get on with what is the rest of our short existence here. Hear these words of Psalm 90 that offer us a perspective of how God measures time: 

A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4, NIV 1984) 

So, if you are grieving right now, take heart. This separation won’t last forever, and you are not alone in your sorrow. Jesus himself walks with you today, and while you can’t feel him holding your hand, you can know for certain that he holds your heart.

This based on an excerpt from my book, Mourning Break, available at Amazon.

Gone the Sun by Sherri Henderson

Seeing the Small

I am that person on the airplane who plays with your toddlers. I have been known to sing, wave, make funny faces, and play endless games of peek-a-boo to entertain them while their parents are struggling and need just a moment to catch their breath. I recently sat next to a mom with a toddler on her lap and spent the entire trip playing with the little girl, who was fascinated with my rings and my mad itsy-bitsy spider skills. Her mom thanked me a thousand times when we deplaned, and I responded that I was once that thankful mom and I’m just paying it forward. Besides, I love small children.

A lot of people don’t notice the little ones. A lot of people don’t notice the little things. A lot of people don’t look beyond their own noses to see someone’s little struggles.

You know who does?

Jesus.

I have always loved the story of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus the tax collector. Luke identifies him as a “short man” who was struggling to see Jesus in the crowd:

Luke 19 (Common English Bible)

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 

We need to remember that tax collectors were the bottom run on society’s ladder. They were mistrusted and rightfully so; many were corrupt and stole from their takings, overtaxing the poor for their own benefit. Someone with this background must have really wanted to see Jesus to even just be in the crowd.

When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.

This story reads so well! Jesus looked up. Jesus saw Zacchaeus. Jesus invited himself to lunch in Zacchaeus’ home. The crowd was appalled. The rabbi supping with the sinner?? It just wasn’t done!

But Zacchaeus was happy as he welcomed Jesus to his table. Isn’t this the way we should all feel? Even in the depth of our sinning, happiness comes when Jesus sees us and enters our lives with his saving grace.

Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

Was there ever a time when the crowd didn’t grumble about Jesus?

The best part is Zacchaeus’ immediate reaction to the Savior. He knew what was required and his repentance was immediate, sincere, and appropriate. How about yours? Do you follow through with your repentance and not only turn away from your sin, but actively work hard to make reparation to those whom you’ve hurt?

Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”

Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 The Human One came to seek and save the lost.

The snooty observers were disgusted, but Jesus stated his mission clearly. He came to seek and save the lost, not comfort the comfortable. As someone once said, the church isn’t a sanctuary for the saints, but a hospital for the sinners.

Salvation comes when we understand the difference.

Trees of Life by Alice Rogers