MEETING THE ‘UNDESIRABLE’
“When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”’ Luke 19:5, NIV
The first Sunday Onome went to church, she created some kind of stir. She was wearing a tank top on a pair of jeggings that looked too tight for her, with bathroom slippers. Her hair was unkempt and uncovered. She noticed everyone shifted their gaze to her as she wobbled into a seat close to the door. But then a lady, whom she later identified as Tara, came to sit beside her, trying to chat with her. Onome looked worn and sick, tired of her life as a street girl. She later became friends with Tara who led her to Christ.
Not too many of us are like Tara, especially when someone ‘undesirable’ shows up in church. In the same way, the people of Jesus’ days could not fathom how Jesus could associate with a man of bad reputation like Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was an enemy of the community because he extorted money from the people on behalf of the Roman government. That Jesus could easily spot Zacchaeus in the midst of the crowd reveals Jesus’ concern for those who are lost, even in their undesirable state. What adjustments do you need to make in your life to give room for those who make you uncomfortable or are undesirable but needs to be touched with Jesus’ loving grace?
• Birthday Blessing: “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you…” Isaiah 52:12
RBT Passage: 1 Samuel 8-12
"If you want to be like Jesus, then love the unlovable, forgive the unworthy and do good to those who can’t repay you." –Anonymous
WHEN JESUS PASSES BY
“They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”’ Luke 18:37-38, NIV
When a certain French queen travelled through her country, her aides were given orders that no people in sadness or in trouble – blind, lame, or suffering— should be allowed anywhere along the way; to keep from the sight of the gentlewoman anything that might cause her pain. So, when a poor woman came to the road hoping to ask her for something to feed her and her daughter, else they die of hunger, she was whisked away even before she got to the queen.
But the blind man in today’s text would not allow people to hinder him from reaching Jesus. Though he couldn’t physically see, his mind was wide open and he was sensitive to seize the moment which he knew may never come again. He knew Jesus so well to trace Him to His lineage, but he did not lose sight of Jesus’ power to deliver him. Bartimaeus’ physical blindness could be a metaphor for spiritual blindness. And as the man did, only those who acknowledge their state and their need of a Saviour, and cry unto Him would be delivered from darkness to light. As it was for the blind man, we all have series of opportunities each day, but it takes those who are sensitive to identify when God’s door is open to seize the opportunity to their blessing.
• Birthday Blessing: “…He will cause to come down for you, the rain, the former rain, the latter rain…” Joel 2:23
RBT Passage: 1 Samuel. 4-7
“There is a place in God’s sun for the youth ‘farthest down’ who has the vision, determination, and the courage to reach it." –Mary Bethure
INHERITING ETERNAL LIFE: ON WHOSE TERMS?
[Jesus] said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22, NIV
The story of the rich young ruler is worthy of our attention, seeing it is recorded in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke. This man had all that identify one as an achiever in the world. He was young, rich, and a ruler. To add a feather to his cap, he came to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. He must have understood, perhaps having heard Jesus’ teachings, that eternal life is real. But he missed it because he thought he could gain heaven by his own terms.
Like this rich young ruler, many today love to identify with the kingdom of God, but on their own terms. They cannot go through the demanding process of discipleship but they would love to be called Christians. They do not want to lose their worldly ambience, friends and influences, yet they want to be identified with Jesus. But the hard truth is that we have to come to God on His own terms, not ours. The rich young ruler walked away, sorrowful because the sacrifice Jesus demanded of him was too big to pay. What demands of Jesus upon your life have you been finding difficult to honour? What things would you have to let go today to become Jesus’ true disciple here on earth and to reign with Him in eternity?
Birthday Blessing: “Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong, do not fear; your God will come-” Isaiah 35:4
RBT Passage: 1 Samuel 1-3
"The path to greatness is self-sacrifice for the good of others." –Yemi Osinbajo
CHILDLIKE OR CHILDISH?
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16, NIV
The innocence, amazement and trust of children always makes one imagine their kind of heart. A child has the tendency to listen, trust and believe absolutely. Little wonder Jesus told His disciples that whosoever will not receive the kingdom of God as a child will not enter it. The disciples would have thought that Jesus was not interested in little children, and so would not allow them to see Jesus. But Jesus called the children to Himself, telling the disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to those who will be like children. Here Jesus was talking about childlike faith that depends totally on God, trusts Him absolutely even when things do not add up.
But childlike faith is not childish. Jesus was not saying we should emulate childish behaviours and refuse to grow up in our Christian journey. C.S Lewis said, “Christ wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job, and in first-class fighting trim.” Apostle Paul put it this way (1 Corinthians 14:20), “Do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.”
• Birthday Blessing: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawn-” Isaiah 9:2
RBT Passage: Ruth 1-4
In malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. –The Holy Bible
EXISTING OR LIVING?
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God … because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4:43, NIV
Yogi Berra was a famous catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, the chief hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. Both of their teams were playing in the World Series. Yogi’s intention was to distract the Milwaukee players so his team could have their way. As the game went on, he said to Aaron, “Hank, you are holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron ignored Yogi initially but later came and said to him, “I didn’t come up here to read.”
Jesus left the synagogue for Simon’s house, where he healed Simon’s mother-in-law and others with diverse diseases; and then came to the desert. The people came to meet Him there, prodding Him to continue staying with them. But Jesus knew His purpose and no circumstance or achievement could derail Him. He said assuredly that His purpose was to preach the good news (v. 43). Discovering purpose is crucial to meaningful living. Without a sense of purpose, we would just be occupying space without actually living. Living begins when we come to know Christ and identify our purpose in Him. In pursuing purpose, we shed off distractions and every weight that can entangle us. Have you found purpose in Christ? Have you found something you wish to die for? Myles Munroe said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without purpose.”
• Birthday Blessing: “In that day they will say, surely this is our God; we trust in Him…-” Isa. 25: 9
RBT Passage: Judges 20-21
“When purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable. “ --Myles Munroe
AFTER YOU SAY ‘I DO’
“You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways … And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people and that you are to keep all his commands.” Deuteronomy 26:17-18, NIV
Exchanging marriage vows is a crucial part of the church wedding. The couple looks forward to this time because it is the part where they will express their love for each other and make promises to stick together ‘for better for worse.’ But experience has shown that saying the wedding vows is easy; keeping them is the tough job. Moses reiterated to the Israelites the implication of the vows they made before the Lord. Just like in a marriage contract, the Israelites avowed to keep the Lord’s commandments, and the Lord also avowed to make them His peculiar people as long as they keep their vows.
Someone said that whenever there is a breach of contract between humans and God, always trace the breach to the human. By His nature, God does not lie; He always keeps His own part of the agreement. The decision to make Jesus the Lord of your life is like saying ‘I do’; but saying is not enough; you must be ready to stay true to Him in all seasons. We must not be fair-weather Christians who only keep commitment when things go the way we wish. Even when times are hard and the environment does not encourage us to be faithful, we must keep our vows; for that is the secret of a lasting and blessed relationship with Him.
• Birthday Blessing: “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land….” Ps 37:34
RBT Passage: Judges 17-19
“The true follower of Christ will…say, "This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!"’ –A. W. Tozer
MAKING IT RIGHT
Exodus 22:1-3; Numbers 5:5-7
“He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.” Numbers 5:7, NIV
A woman accused her shop attendant of stealing. She claimed she kept a sum of money in a particular shelf in the shop and couldn’t find it afterwards. She concluded it was the attendant who stole it. She invited passersby who shouted on the girl, beat her and tore her clothes. Later, that day (as she confessed to a friend), she found the money in another place in the shop. She asked, “How can I face her to tell her I was wrong?”
Fairness, equity and restitution are three principles found in today’s text. One of the instructions God gave Moses for the Israelites is that anyone who wronged another must confess what he has done and make full restitution to the person. Apologising is not enough; the person must pay the injured party some money commensurate with the loss incurred. God considers sin against another person as sin against Him. Though we are not under the law, these principles are still relevant to us today. Whenever we hurt people, we should be willing and quick to apologise, then make things right. As a body of Christ, we can’t be united to fight the devil and win victory if we refuse to settle offences and restore those who are hurting. To have peace in the Spirit, we must always seek to be right with God and others.
• Birthday Blessing: “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their land…” Isaiah 14:1
RBT Passage: Judges 14-16
“True spirituality is not evidenced in how much we know but in how quick we are in mending broken fences.” –Anonymous
JUST AS YOU ARE
I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' Luke 15:18-19, NIV
An artist needed a man to pose as the prodigal son for him to paint. He met a beggar on the street and asked him to be the model, with a promise to pay him. The beggar accepted the offer and was asked to come to the artist’s studio at an appointed time. At the said time, the beggar appeared, neatly shaven and all dressed up. “Who are you?” asked the artist. “I am the beggar,” answered the man. “I thought I'd get cleaned up before I got painted.” “No, I wanted you to come as you were. I have no use of you this way.”
After the prodigal son came back to his senses, he did not put up a show. He faced the fact that in his present state, he was no longer worthy to be called the father’s son (v. 19). He went back to his father just as he was, seeking forgiveness. God always wants us to come to Him as we are – no pretence, no make-up, no cover-up – acknowledging our need of Him. Perhaps you are not proud of who you are at the moment. God wants you to come as you are; He not only sees you for what you are now but is willing to make you that person He wants you to be.
• Birthday Blessing: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. Isaiah 44:2
RBT Passage: Judges 11-13
“God takes us as we are and makes us more than we could ever imagine.” –Neill Marriot
EVERYTHING IS YOURS
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’” Luke 15:31, NIV
In his book, The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges tells of a slave who had an amicable relationship with his master. To express his appreciation to this slave, the master apportioned 50,000 dollars to him in his will, and deposited it in a bank. One day, the slave called the banker and asked, “Can I have fifty cents to buy a sack of cornmeal?” He was begging for fifty cents when he is entitled to 50,000 dollars. The older brother of the prodigal son is like this slave. He has a compensation mentality and feels he has received less than he deserves for his commitment to their father’s work. He fails to realise that he is entitled to so much more than the pittance he is asking for.
Whenever we look at another believer and think that we deserve to be blessed of God more than them (perhaps because we thought we are more committed to God), we are like this older brother. Such mentality only robs us of who we really are in God. As the father told the older brother, He is also telling us today: “Everything I have is yours.” Instead of comparing yourself with others in relation to God, take your rightful position in Him and claim what belongs to you without complaining about what others get or do not get.
• Birthday Blessing: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again rejoice - Philippians 4:4
RBT Passage: Judges 9-10
“Prejudice distorts what it sees, deceives when it talks, and destroys when it acts.” –Anonymous
THE JOY OF FINDING LOST THINGS
“And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” Luke 15:9, NIV
Recently, I mistakenly dropped my phone as I alighted from a taxi. I didn’t realise it until I had to make a phone call. The pain in my heart showed on my face; one lady had to ask me if there was no problem. Of course, there was. As I began to think about my contacts and other personal stuffs on the phone, my husband showed up. The cab driver had called the last dialled number on my phone, (my husband’s), and asked him to come get the phone. “That was a rare gesture,” I said, as my heart swelled with joy. Anyone who has once lost something or someone can relate with Jesus’ story of the lost sheep and coin. Jesus was responding to those who accused him of relating with tax collectors and sinners. He said His focus was to bring them to the fold and cause the angels to rejoice over them.
For the joy that will well up in the Father’s heart, we must not give up on those who are lost and do not know exactly where they are going. Like Jesus, we should not shut out unbelievers from our relationship circle; nor get carried away as to lose the focus of relating with them. Our aim is to make the Father’s heart glad and cause angels to rejoice as sinners come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
• Birthday Blessing: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3
RBT Passage: Judges 6-8
“The most valuable thing on earth is the human soul; God invested so much into it and is happy when it is restored to Him.” –XB