Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Oddities in the Story of Zacchaeus

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

There’s Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree.  How did he get there?

He climbed, which must have been a funny sight.  I have 13 grandkids.  We see them in trees all the time, but we never see older people in trees.  And we NEVER see older rich people in robes up in trees.

But that was Zacchaeus, an older, rich, short man in robes, climbing up a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus who was coming that way in what basically must have been like a parade.

Why was Zacchaeus so interested in Jesus?

Why is ANYONE so interested in Jesus?

In fact, why on earth are millions of people on earth still to this day so interested in Jesus?

It can’t be because he was a local phenomenon, flash in the pan, 15 minutes of fame guy.  Nobody is that interested in someone like that.

Rich guys in robes don’t climb trees for that.

So why was Zacchaeus there?  That’s one of the oddities in this story of Zacchaeus.  Why was he there?

Luke 19:3 says he “…sought to see who Jesus was…”

So it sounds like Zacchaeus was doing the seeking, desiring to know more about Jesus.

Then comes another oddity in the story.  Luke 19:5 says that when Jesus came to the place where Zacchaeus was, “He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’”

As a child, I remember standing outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis and watching the players arrive.  There they were, in the flesh, all those stars I had seen on TV and on my baseball cards.  

None of them ever turned to me and called me by name and said they were coming to my house.  It would have blown my mind!  “How did they know my name?  Why are they coming to my house?”

But that’s what happened to Zacchaeus.  Jesus looked up into the tree, called him by name, and said, “I’m coming to your house.”

The life of Zacchaeus is transformed in the presence of Jesus.  He gives half of his possessions to the poor, and he pays back fourfold everyone he has taken advantage of.

Then Jesus says something so joyful and jubilant, “Today salvation has come to this house!”

Man, that’s just like Jesus, just going in and revolutionizing someone’s life, turning them around in just moments in His presence.

And He’s still doing it today!  He did it for me and He’s done it for millions.

And here’s the final and grandest oddity in the story of Zacchaeus.  It’s right at the end, almost an afterthought, and yet it puts the entire story of Zacchaeus into a different light.

In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Wait a minute.  The story starts with Zacchaeus seeking Jesus.  But at the end we find that Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus!

Wow.  That explains Jesus stopping right at the tree and looking up and calling him by name.  It explains Jesus’ offer to go to his house.  It wasn’t that Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus.  It was that Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus!

One more Scripture before I close.

In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”

Why did Zacchaeus run ahead and climb up into the sycamore tree to see Jesus?  Maybe he thought he was just curious.

And maybe you think you are just curious.  You want to know more about Jesus.

But you know what?  You aren’t just curious.  Zacchaeus wasn’t just curious.  God the Father was drawing him, and if your heart and mind are wanting to know more about Jesus, God is drawing you.

He stands at the door and knocks, and if you will answer, He will come in, and just like Zacchaeus, a little time in the presence of Jesus and your life will be changed forever.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Friday, May 14, 2021

How to Handle Opportunities

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire.  (Luke 24:32)

It’s one of the most exciting times in life.

It’s when opportunity presents itself.

It’s exciting because you have to make a choice, and you know that your choice will affect your future, and maybe the future of many others.

It’s exciting, and nerve wracking.

In fact, some people are scared of opportunities precisely because of the possible huge ramifications.  They think, “Well, if I don’t choose at all, at least I won’t make the wrong choice.”

Tell that to the man in Jesus’ parable who hid his talent in the ground instead of using the opportunity wisely.

Ah, now that’s the key:  using opportunities wisely!

So how do we do that?

First of all, the Bible tells us not to “give opportunity” to the flesh, or to the devil.  So when we are looking at an opportunity and deciding what to do about it, we clearly want to avoid things that are sinful.

We don’t become unequally yoked.  We don’t cheat people.  We don’t take advantage of people.  We don’t enter into win-lose situations where I win and you lose.  That may be taking advantage of an opportunity, but it’s wrong and sinful.

Galatians 6:10 says, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all…”

So how do we handle opportunities?  One thing we are looking for is how we can use this opportunity to do good for all, not just me.  We’re looking for opportunities to create win-win situations, where everyone’s situation is improved and no one comes up a big loser.

One question to ask is, “How can I use this opportunity to solve problems, both my problems and other people’s problems?”

Proverbs tells us that lazy people ignore opportunities, and ignorant people don’t even notice them.  

I think God often brings opportunities into our life.  

Back to the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25 Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  Like what?  It’s like a rich man who gave opportunities to his servants, and he wanted to see how they would handle them.

Maybe you never thought of it that way.

I think God brings opportunities into our life, and then He watches, like a patient Father, to see what we will do with them.

What He wants is for us to take advantage of the opportunity in order to do good.

Next comes the question of which opportunities to work on, because in this day and age the world is crawling with opportunities and you can’t possibly take on all of them.

Back to the book of Galatians.  

Galatians 5:16 tells us to “walk in the Spirit,” which means to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:18 tells us to be “led by the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:25 tells us to “live in the Spirit.”

As Christian believers, we have to learn to discern the leading and speaking of God’s Holy Spirit inside of us.

And then when opportunity presents itself, we can watch for God’s Spirit in us to rise up and put a fire in us that says, “Yes, there it is.  Go for it.”

Yes, it can still be nerve wracking, because it’s important!

But don’t be like the lazy and ignorant and even wicked person who lets opportunities pass by, ignoring them while supposedly “playing it safe.”

It didn’t work for the man in the parable of the talents, and it won’t work for us!

So when you see the opportunity arise, take a good look, pray for wisdom, listen to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to strike while the iron’s hot, going forward in faith and trust that God is with you, and He will help you turn it into a winner for everyone involved.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.