I Can’t Stand Zacchaeus

by Erin Bird

Last week here on the blog, we launched a three-week series on the story of Zacchaeus (found in Luke 19:1-10). We first looked at Zacchaeus, seeing how we are like him in our selfishness, and yet how we need to be like him in his desperation to see Jesus.

This week, I want to look at the crowds. So go ahead and take 42.4-seconds to re-read the passage, then come back to read my encouragement for you this week.

The Judging Crowds

Remember what we learned last week about Zacchaeus: he was a Jewish man working for the Roman government as a tax-collector who took more than he should, pocketing the extra for himself. Needless to say, Zacchaeus wasn’t exactly invited over for dinner by his fellow citizens.

i cant stand zacchaeus2 350x196 - I Can't Stand ZacchaeusWe see their dislike of this man in verse 7. The people overheard Jesus invite himself over to this tax collector’s home, honoring Zacchaeus in the process. This cause the crowds to grumble. They saw Zacchaeus as the worst sinner of their community, and they judged him unworthy of having anyone over to his home, especially a famous miracle-worker like Jesus.

What stands out to me is that we are probably more like the crowds than we want to admit.

  • We see someone of a different economic status, and without knowing how they got into that situation, we judge them.
  • We get stuck behind someone going 10 mph under the speed limit, and without knowing what is going on in their heart and mind, we judge them.
  • We see a mug shot on TV or in the newspaper of someone recently arrested for a crime, and without knowing any of the details or evidence, we judge them.

I could go on. Unfortunately, the crowds of our culture judge people based on skin color, political alignment, gender, religious affiliation, geographical location, or even taste of music.

The Opinion of the One-True Judge

While the world around us (and in us) rushes to judgment of others, God has a different approach. As we saw in our blog-series on the Imago Dei, all people matter to God, including traitorous, thieving tax-collectors. We see this in Jesus’ words in verses 9 and 10 (which we will look at in greater depth next week). But Jesus accepts Zacchaeus. And so should you.

This is why God said through Paul in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” If God could lavish grace upon you despite your rebellion against Him, you can give grace to the Zacchaeus’s of your life. Because you never know if God is going to invite Himself into that person’s life like He did with you.

So let us live lives free of disparaging judgment over those we deem (or culture judges) as less worthy. Let us show honor and grace to our fellow Imago Dei-s, so we might love like Jesus loved and live like Him.

Love All

 

by Erin Bird

So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.

But is it?

When you are at the office Christmas party, and Randolph has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.

Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated political tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.

To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?

Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, but rather truly Love All, here’s some advice:
Love All blank 350x196 - Love All
1. Pray
It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross, rather he died for them and their sin.)

Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.

2. Plan
Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts ranting about some fringe theological viewpoint. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.

In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

3. Give
Last week, we looked at the topic of Give MoreWhat could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.

As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

A Real Life Example
I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.

Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.

She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”

Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.

Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:

  1. she had prayed about the situation,
  2. made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
  3. then gave him something,

it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.

I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.

And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.

Marked by Love

by Erin Bird

Hope your week is going well. Last week, I asked for your input on what kind of content you wanted on the blog. Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas! (If you didn’t share your ideas, it’s not too late. I kept the survey open, so please give a couple of minutes to share your ideas of what would make this blog most helpful to you.)

Deeper with 1 John

A couple of you indicated through the survey you enjoyed how we went deeper with the Sunday sermon during the Disciplined series on spiritual disciplines here on the Riverwood blog. I’m glad to hear this! This is a big reason why our Growth Groups spend time studying the passage from the previous Sunday in greater depth.

Because our Growth Groups spend time discussing the sermon from Sunday, I don’t plan to use the blog to go into greater depth every week. But I can’t help myself this week, because in my Monday night Growth Group, my wife, LeAnn, shared an amazing profound thought about 1 John I want to share with you.

marked by love2 350x196 - Marked by LoveAs we were using the Growth Group Discussion Guide to discuss the opening section of 1 John, I couldn’t help but tell my Group that as I’ve been studying for this series, it’s really stood out to me how much John not only talks about love, but really seems to love his readers. As I said this, LeAnn audibly said, “huh!” as if a lightbulb just went off in her brain. So I asked if she had just had a thought or insight.

LeAnn said, “Well, we know from John’s gospel that John is known as ‘the disciple Jesus loved.’ I wonder if because John  was so loved by Christ that he couldn’t help but talk about love and shower others with love.”

Wow! What a thought! And I think she’s right.

Which brings up a question.

Being a Beloved Disciple

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are also a “disciple Jesus loves.” But would those around you describe you as someone marked by this love? Do your words, presence, and actions reveal the love Jesus has for you and also has for them? I know that if John’s words throughout his letter reveal his love for others, I want my words (and actions) to reveal God’s love as well.

So what can you do the rest of this week to let someone know you love them simply because God has lavished you with love through the Gospel? You might:

  • write someone a note
  • send someone a text
  • clean someone’s dishes or mow their lawn
  • drop off a meal or gift at someone’s house
  • call a hurting friend
  • share what you’re learning through Scripture with someone else
  • invite someone over to enjoy a meal or watch a football game
  • grab coffee with a coworker
  • invite someone to your Growth Group or to Sunday morning

May we be people marked by love, which is made evident through the love we give them.

Love All This Christmas

by Erin Bird

So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.

But is it?

When you are at the office Christmas party, and John has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.

Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.

To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?

Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, here’s some advice:

1. Pray

It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross. Rather he died for them and their sin.)

Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.

2. Plan

Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts complaining about a fringe political issue that no one else even cares about. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see that he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.

In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

3. Give

gift 350px 350x234 - Love All This ChristmasLast week, we looked at the topic of Give More. What could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.

As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

A Real Life Example

I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.

Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.

She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”

AC 2017 Presentation ThemeArtboard 1 copy 9 350x197 - Love All This Christmas

Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.

Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:

  • she had prayed about the situation,
  • made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
  • then gave him something,

it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.

I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.

And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.