Surprise Visit Luke 19:1-10

Jericho erupted with the excitement of Jesus’ arrival. He just healed the blind men, and everyone wanted to see Him. As the crowds flooded the streets, Zaccheus rushed to see Him too. But he had a problem. He was too short to see over the heads in the crowd. This was worse, because he was a chief tax collector. All the years of getting rich at the expense of his neighbors, had earned him many enemies. When he tried to wiggle through the crowd to inch closer to Jesus, several shoulders and elbows blocked his way.

Lonely Zaccheus desperately surveyed the situation. How could he get close enough to Jesus? Then he saw the perfect solution! Since he could tell where Jesus was headed, he rushed ahead to a stately sycamore tree stretching above the road. He managed to climb into the lower branches before Jesus arrived. He didn’t care what  anyone thought of him. All he wanted was a glimpse of Jesus. (Besides all eyes were on Jesus. Who would look up into the tree?)

When Jesus arrived, He looked up at Zaccheus. He called him by name. Did Zaccheus grip the branch tighter in shock?  Then Jesus told him to come down because He wanted to visit in his home. Very few people wanted to visit his home, but Jesus wanted to spend time with him. Jesus cared about him.

Zaccheus scurried down and gladly received Jesus into his home. He prepared a great meal for Jesus and his disciples. Spending time with Jesus convicted him. So he announced that he would give half his wealth to the poor and repay anyone he stole from fourfold. Then Jesus proclaimed that salvation had come to his home.

Zaccheus is the last new person recorded by the gospel writers that Jesus reached out to during his earthly ministry.

Zaccheus had been lost, but Jesus sought him out. Suddenly all Zaccheus’ wealth meant nothing compared to knowing and following Jesus. His loyalty shifted from love of money to love of Jesus. He would never be the same. Of all the people in busy Jericho, Jesus chose Zaccheus. I believe Jesus knew his heart was open yearning for God. The closer we move to Jesus, the more our affections change. Is there anything in your life standing between you and a deeper relationship with Him? If so, let it go. Once you release it, you will be so grateful you are free of it, as you embrace a deeper fuller life in Jesus.



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Looking for Healing Luke 18:35-43

We don’t know how long Bartimaeus had been blind, but the fact that he sat by the road begging must have been very humbling. Matthew says he begged with another blind man near the city gates of Jericho. (Since there is no mention of Jesus visiting Jericho before, this may have been his only visit to Jericho.) The minute he heard Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he forgot about begging for coins. He wanted healing.

He cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!” We don’t know how big, or how loud the crowd was. He knew he had one short moment to capture Jesus’ attention and he wasn’t going to let Jesus slip away. So Bartimaeus shouted loudly. When people nearby told him to be quiet, he shouted louder. This increased his urgency to capture Jesus’ attention before he was gone.

How many times have acquaintances, friends or even family members grown immune to your chronic problems? Maybe they wrote you off as incurable or hopeless. But Bartimaeus knew Jesus brought hope. He wasn’t a mere man from Nazareth, He was the royal son of David, the Messiah, a healer.

When Jesus heard his cries, He summoned him. Jesus asked what he wanted. Bartimaeus asked for his sight. Because of Bartimaeus’ faith, Jesus promptly healed him. At the time, no one knew this would be the last public healing of Jesus earthly ministry.

I don’t know what chronic problem you may suffer with. I don’t know how many people around you may ignore it. But I do know Jesus loves you dearly. He is still full of hope and healing today. Are you willing to honor Him and place your faith in His healing power over all your problems, both medical and non-medical? Ignore the naysayers around you. Cry out to Jesus focusing completely on Him. He hears. He cares. He heals.

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Who is Greatest? Mt. 20:17-28

As they walked toward Jerusalem, Jesus pulled His disciples aside to warn them again of His imminent scourging, death by crucifixion and resurrection on the third day. Yet no one replied. When I hear bad news, it is easy to quickly decide if I want to believe or ignore it. They chose to ignore it.

Then Mrs. Zebedee and her sons, James and John asked for a special favor. Instead of thinking about His pending death, they were hoping to advance their bright careers in His kingdom. How long had they whispered and schemed, waiting for the perfect time to privately ask Jesus? They were facing in the opposite direction, 180° out of touch with Jesus.

Why did they feel entitled to this great honor? Jesus said only His Father chose who would receive the honor. Naturally the ten were very upset! Not only were the Zebedee family out of line, then Jesus used it as a teaching opportunity.

He gathered up all His disciples and highlighted the domineering leadership style of Gentile rulers. Then He contrasted the leadership style of His kingdom, where the great choose to be servants. They need to follow His example. Jesus came to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

Did they get it? Jesus clearly told them the secret to leadership. The gospel writers don’t tell us their response. Were they again silent, unable to grasp the concept?

Now nearly 2,000 years later, we have the privilege of looking back and seeing the entire story from start to finish. When I get an opportunity to lead, am I a leader like the Gentiles, eager for people to serve me, or do I use my positions of leadership to serve others? Can you push self-advancement aside as you seek to advance His kingdom— spreading more heaven on earth?

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The Wrong Choice John 11:18-57

When news of Lazarus’ death reached Jerusalem, many friends who lived only two miles away came to Bethany to comfort the sisters. As good friends, they shared grief with Mary and Martha, by weeping with them. When Mary rushed out to meet Jesus, they rushed out after her. They must have watched in amazement as Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb! As a result, many believed Jesus was the Messiah.

But some told the Pharisees what Jesus had done. The good news of Lazarus’ resurrection didn’t cause rejoicing with the religious leaders. Instead they formed a council to discuss it. Since Jesus kept doing miracles, they feared soon everyone would believe in Him. Then they said the Romans would take away their position (of authority) and their nation. High Priest Caiaphas proposed the “perfect solution.” Since Jesus’ popularity was their problem, if they got rid of Jesus the problem would be eliminated. Their solution was to plot His death.

Since Jesus knew their plot, He quietly left town and stayed away for a few months. The religious leaders knew when people started coming into Jerusalem for Passover, they put out an alert to watch for Jesus, so they could secretly arrest Him.

These jealous men were so troubled by Jesus’ growing popularity they created a crisis. It was absurd to pretend the Romans would send in troops to crush their little bit of power. Gov. Pilate and Caesar were not concerned about Jesus and His miracles. The only threat Jesus posed was toward them and their fleeting power over the people. Instead of repairing their relationship with the people, they sought to destroy Jesus.

That’s the flaw of jealousy. A jealous person doesn’t seek to fix what is wrong with him. Instead, he seeks to destroy the person who has what he wants.

At a time when people were rightfully rejoicing over a life restored, jealous people were plotting. Beware the next time you succeed. There may be someone who doesn’t share your joy. They may attack, so watch your back.

On the other hand, if you struggle celebrating the victories when friends or colleagues succeed, take a heart check. Do you feel threatened or jealous of her success? If so, ask God to give you a grateful heart for all the blessings He has given you. Also ask Him to help you show support to her.

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Deep Disappointment Luke 11:1-44

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were good friends to Jesus. When he came to Bethany, He stayed with them.

One day Lazarus grew very sick, so Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus. “Lord, he whom you love is sick.” They knew of His healing power and were confident of His love. So they expected Jesus to respond quickly.

While they nursed their ailing brother, the days blurred into nights. Every time someone knocked at the door, did they jump up and fling open the door—only to have their hope dashed to the ground? Where was Jesus? Then in those moments when Lazarus gasped his final breath, their hope melted into grief. What ran through their hearts and minds? Did they feel abandoned and ignored? Why didn’t Jesus come?

As they grieved Lazarus’ death and prepared his body for burial, Jesus’ absence must have filled their thoughts. “If only Jesus had come. If only…” Once the stone was rolled in front of his tomb, they returned home to a new normal, life without Lazarus, their provider and protector. As the wailing of grieving friends surrounded them, the silence of Jesus’ absence drowned out the noise. At the time of their greatest need, when only He could help them, He was missing. Now their future loomed so empty and bleak.

Then on the fourth day after Lazarus’ burial, Martha heard Jesus was coming. She rushed out to meet Him. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give You.” She knew Jesus could have healed and prevented Lazarus’ death. She knew He had unlimited power from God, including power over death. She also proclaimed He was the Christ, the Son of God.

Once Mary learned Jesus was close, she also rushed out to meet Him. She knew He could have prevented Lazarus’ death. Her weeping touched Jesus so deeply He also wept. Then Jesus turned to the tomb and called Lazarus out. The crowd stood gaping as Lazarus stepped out. Their powerful LORD had returned their brother to them. Mary and Martha must have rushed up to help unwrap him. In that instant, their deep grief melted into shocking joy!

When I am suffering, how many times do I desperately cry out to Jesus from the depths of my pain and need? When the heavens are silent and my crisis deepens, do I assume God isn’t listening, or He’s too busy? Here we see Jesus intentionally delayed. He wanted it to get worse so the miracle would be greater. At times when I don’t receive the answer, maybe God is delaying so the miracle will be greater. His sovereign plan and perfect timing are always for our best. When life is darkest, can you still trust His loving plan?

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False Charges Against Cherish

I lived in Berlin for a year. Most days when I entered the grocery store, babies sat or slept in strollers parked in front of the store or inside next to the door. At first it shocked me to see these “abandoned” babies. Yet some days there was a traffic jam with three or four strollers all parked around the door while moms busily shopped inside. In the year we lived there, I never heard of any missing child reports.

Clearly, the mothers felt comfortable leaving their babies by the door until after they paid for their groceries.

Since I had 4 children in 5 years, taking them all to the grocery store turned into quite an expedition. When I was nursing my babies, my brain was especially foggy because my “milk factory” drained my brain of fresh red blood cells.

A few days ago, Cherish Peterson ventured out with all four children in tow to buy groceries. Since she was still recovering from childbirth, it was a major undertaking. If she filled her cart with all four children where would she put her groceries?

If she was breast feeding baby Huxton, then her brain would have been foggy as well. Just loading up her car with her three and all the groceries was a challenge. If the baby was asleep, the noise of the older children would have been a serious distraction.

Shame on the tattooed hairdresser who lied saying she had been gone 2 hours. How many children does the hairstylist have? Who is she to judge?

In fact, any mom with 4 or more children closely spaced together will quickly empathize with Cherish, whose hands were extremely full.

Once some busybodies dared to cast blame on poor Cherish, the police department had the nerve to retract her innocence and press charges of child endangerment. They should be ashamed for allowing busybodies to over ride common sense.

Cherish was short handed, preoccupied and forgot to count heads. These are  not criminal acts. Any mother of four or more children can readily relate. Any German who hears of this will think it absurd.

Cherish deserves our help and compassion, not our condemnation.

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Daddy Beckham’s Investment

Soccer legend, David Beckham, took his four-year-old daughter, Harper, to the playground. While she was climbing on the playground, someone caught a photo of a pacifier in her mouth.

Then the busybody “child experts” began to buzz, listing the potential damage of using a pacifier, saying she was far too old to use it and claiming David Beckham should know better.

In an era when dads are busy with clients or customers, it is refreshing to see a father invest prime time with his preschool daughter. The busybodies were too busy worrying about Harper’s orthodontic development than about her emotional and psychological well-being.

She is blessed to have a daddy who invests time playing with her, which will develop emotional security in her. Little girls whose fathers invest time in them are more stable. As a result, when teen hormones hit, they avoid most of the at-risk behavior of their unstable peers.

If more dads in the US and the UK regularly took their daughters out for a fun day at the park or beach, less trouble would erupt in the teen years. I applaud Daddy Beckham‘s well-placed priority.

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Lauren’s Choice

My heart swelled with pride as I cheered our Women’s World Cup Team on to victory! Lauren Holiday had the honor of scoring one of our goals.

Lauren Cheney grew up as the youngest child of seven. Since none of her older siblings allowed her to score, she grew into a tough striker against players her own age.

At the tender age of 17, she was chosen to play on the US Women’s Soccer team. She won Olympic Gold in 2008 and 2012. She is recognized as one of the most versatile players on the team. In 2013, she married NBA player, Jrue Holiday.

On Sunday, July 5th, she and her teammates had the privilege of defeating our old foe. 70 years ago, Japan cruelly dishonored thousands of our brave WWII POWS. Our women’s soccer team gave America a final birthday gift— the World Cup!

At the age of 27, she represented the US for 10 years bringing home 3 golden crowns! Then two days after their glorious victory, she stunned the sports world by announcing her retirement from international soccer.

With tears of joy in her eyes, she said, “I feel like this team isn’t my identity, it is my choice. There is power in making a choice. I chose this team for 10 years and now I am going to choose a family.”

What maturity, what clarity, to choose soccer, but not allow it to define her. While she rejoices in her well-deserved victory, she boldly chooses a new path. The new path of motherhood will also require sacrificial commitment to conquer new challenges. It will also fill her life with deep meaning and purpose. She probably won’t garner many headlines as a mother, but her life will take on a new significance, as she shapes the lives of her children.

26 years ago, I had to choose between a teaching position or staying at home to raise my new baby son. It was an easy choice. I set aside my chalk and picked up a diaper bag. I didn’t lay aside fame and glory like Lauren did. They are much harder to release.

I applaud her unselfish choice, one I am sure she won’t regret.

Brewing up:  As I write, I am sipping on iced green tea sweetened with a splash of limeade. Aah, very refreshing!

July 9, 2015

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Life Lessons Resonate with Kids

Life is full of lessons. All we need to do is open our eyes to see them Continue reading

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Be a Strong Role Model

“What parents excuse in moderation, children excuse in excess.”  Zig Ziglar

One day as I drove along at the speed of traffic, I noticed that my Jr. High-aged son was sitting beside me absorbing everything I did Continue reading

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