Zack of the Unfair Tax Attack

“That rotten Zack, he stole my snack!

He ate my lunch and popped the sack.

He stole the coins from my backpack.

It was an unfair tax attack. If only I could get him back…”

The idea of loving one’s enemy was probably the last thing most people were thinking of when they saw Jesus talking to Zacchaeus. Here was a man who had cheated them, pointing his finger when they didn’t think they’d paid enough. He had made himself rich off of their misery.

As they saw it, Zacchaeus had fallen far short of God’s glory – definitely further than they themselves had. But Jesus wanted to spend some time with good old Zack, so He invited Himself over to his house. The onlookers shook their heads. Was Jesus crazy? Was He really going to be a guest at the house of that – that –

“That rotten Zack who stole my snack,

who ate my lunch and popped the sack,

who stole the coins from my backpack?

It was an unfair tax attack. If only I could get him back…

But Jesus is there, and I don’t think He’d let me. He’d probably say I should forgive him. But if only – if only I could get even…”

Zack was overjoyed that Jesus would want to see him. Once he got to know the Lord, he had a change of heart. He decided to give half his goods to the poor and to repay everyone he had cheated through false accusation. He said he’d give back four times what he stole.

Jesus called Zacchaeus a “son of Abraham,” who is known as the father of faith. Abraham was rich, but he was also generous, trusting God to supply all his needs. Zack was rich too, but he had been greedy. Then he met Jesus and decided to pay back what he had stolen. Can you imagine how the people he had stolen from rejoiced to receive back from him four times what he had taken?

Zacchaeus was a cheater who had a change of heart. Like many vanity publishers today, he had cheated people out of their hard-earned money and given them nothing in return. But he had a change of heart, which is something that should give us hope. For our God is a God of restitution and if we invite Jesus into the situation, will He not repay us for whatever loss we’ve suffered?

So, let’s forgive those who have cheated us, because you never know if God might not use one of them to bless you in the end.






Be of Good Cheer

“My son, I say, be of good cheer. Your sins have been forgiven.”

Oh, what uplifting words to the poor paralyzed man were given!

No more sack cloth or ashes, for God’s strength was found in joy.

God’s grace did not depend upon him being a good boy.


His clapping friends above upon the shattered roof were smiling,

The righteous man had seen their faith, though others were reviling.

Their inward thoughts heaped tons of dirt upon the Lord of glory.

What happened next put even more excitement in the story.


The startled crowd that stood inside the house began to mumble,

With voices too hushed to be heard, “Our teacher isn’t humble!”

“To think that he can pardon sins! His mind must not be steady.”

Before the words had left their lips, he had his answer ready.


“What’s easier? To forgive him or to tell him ‘rise and walk’?”

With confidence and truth, he answered their unspoken talk.

The quiet murmurers drew back in shock. How could this be?

How did he get inside their minds? It came so suddenly!


His unexpected “snappy answer” took them by surprise.

They fell off their proverbial chairs and rubbed wide open eyes

To find themselves thrown off their high and mighty babbling tower

As Jesus, with one bold, swift move, made His Word known with power.


“Arise, pick up your mat, and go back to your house today,”

He told the man, who saw he had no choice but to obey.

He stood up with a shout, all smiles, jumped up off the floor,

Picked up his mat, sidestepped the cat, and walked straight out the door.


To those who say God ruins fun, I beg to disagree.

See how He healed the crippled man and made the blind to see!

For, if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.

Or must somebody wreck a roof that you might see your need?




Who Cares What the Bird Thinks?

(Immersing in God’s Word, Part II)

Who cares what the bird thinks when you’re dipping in God’s Word?

Don’t let it snatch the seed of faith that you have recently heard.

Protect your head if you don’t want that bird to snatch the seed.

Stop chasing birds and meditate. On Bible you should feed.

Yes, Jesus said to look at birds, but only to discern

The fact that God provides for them. Yes, look at them and learn

How carefree those little flying creatures seem to be.

God cares for them in every way. How much more you and me?

It doesn’t take an animal rights activist to see

That there are times to leave a bird alone. Yes, let it be.

What the bird thinks doesn’t matter, nor do other people’s views

When you’re reading Jesus’ words (so much better than other news).



Healing by Immersion in God’s Word

Dip seven times in Jordan, the prophet to Naaman did say.

Set aside your own agenda, dear commander, and obey.

Immerse yourself within it. There’s healing in this Word.

It must sink deep within you to remove the icy berg.


It is the berg of unbelief. We see it on the surface.

It’s floating on your skin. To shame you is its purpose.

Beneath it lies a mountain that can tumble the Titanic.

Only the Man of perfect faith can tread on that Atlantic.


Your berg of doubt would block the faith that God seeks to impart.

You must let Him dissolve the rock of pride that’s in your heart.

One dip is not enough to penetrate such stubborn soil.

You can’t get rid of it with fervent sweat or fearful toil.


No river of Damascus can remove your ingrown sin,

But bathing in the flow of God’s good news gives peace within.

Transgression may rise up, but much more does God’s grace abound,

With drastic change that places your feet back on solid ground.


You do not need a man to wave his hand over the spot.

Just take the word, believe it, exercise the faith you’ve got

By soaking in the scriptures. Drink His truth in, undiluted,

For which no earthly medicine can well be substituted.


Behold the stones that testify to Christ’s amazing power

To make God’s flood of judgment part that you might now cross over,

receiving sweet for bitter, mercy streams to end all strife,

For all who do believe in Him have passed from death to life.



Even Moses Lived by Grace, not Law

Those of us who embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior understand that we are saved by grace, not law, according to Ephesians 2:8-9.  But did you know that the concept of salvation by God’s grace is nothing new?

Even Moses, who gave the ten commandments, lived by grace. In his conversation with God concerning how to bring His people into the Promised Land, Moses continually asks for grace.

Let’s look at the passage in Exodus 33:12-17 (KJV).

12 “And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.

13 Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.

14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

15 And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.

16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

17 And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

     How does God express His grace to Moses and to Israel?

In verse 14, He says, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”

Moses wanted to know God. He wanted God’s presence.

In John 1:16-17 we read,

16 and of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.

17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Is it any wonder then that Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah upon the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses got a glimpse, in person, of God’s grace when he spoke with Jesus. What a glorious meeting that must have been.

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3

Signs, Wonders, and Suffering for Christ

And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. Acts 4:1-2

The Sadducees were sad. The message didn’t make them glad. They didn’t like the gospel message. A crippled man had just been miraculously healed through the power of Jesus’ name. Some people don’t like miracles. The Sadducees sure didn’t. They didn’t believe in angels or resurrection, and probably would have preferred for the man to stay a cripple, because the power of God was something they couldn’t handle.

Yes, there is a form of religion that denies God’s power, that teaches us to go to church on Sunday, do all the motions of worship, then go home unchanged. But we feel better because we’ve done our religious duty. The conscience is temporarily assuaged, but the heart remains hard and the soul remains untouched. It is a faith that rests on the wisdom of man, but in the name of Jesus Christ Peter and John had just performed an amazing miracle.

And now the priests, the captain of the temple, and the men who were famous for being sad, the Sadducees, arrested Peter and John. They persecuted them (i.e. gave them a hard time) for daring to lay hold of Jesus’ promise that

“He who believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the scripture “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Well, the Apostles had a living faith in God and they demonstrated it by daring to take hold of a crippled man’s hand and help him to his feet. They believed God’s Word and acted on it.

Now, some believing Christians (I don’t know how many) don’t believe God still performs instantaneous healings, resurrections, or miracles. Some of them hold the concept that to be sick or infirm or disabled is to somehow suffer for the gospel. They preach against the idea of divine healing, as if it was opposed to God’s will. But what would Jesus say to that? How did He feel about healing people?

Once, in a synagogue where Jesus was speaking, there was a man with a withered hand. The religious guys were watching him carefully, waiting to accuse him of healing on the Sabbath. They cared more about their religious doctrine than about the ailing man. The scriptures tell us that Jesus was grieved for the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5). His question to them was:

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill?” (verse 4)

Of course, Jesus healed the man. This time it was the Pharisees he angered, and they plotted to destroy him. Jesus didn’t have to get sick to suffer persecution at their hands. He suffered because he healed people and raised others from the dead. The religious people were envious, because they had a form of godliness but denied its power (II Timothy 3:5-7). I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to live my Christian life.






Why Haven’t I Been Healed Yet?

“Why haven’t I been healed yet?”

I believe Job asked that same question, and for good reason. He’d lost his business, his employees, his children, and his health. Was there ever anyone as miserable as he? He was wounded in every way.

Sometimes when people are in mourning, there’s nothing you can say to make them feel better. So, you do as the scripture says. Like Jesus did at Lazarus’s tomb, you weep with those who weep. That’s what Job’s three friends did. They came to comfort him and offer their condolences. But after hearing what they had to say, Job called them “miserable comforters.”

Why was that? Job was in pain. He hurt so bad inside, he wished he never had been born. He hoped his friends would sympathize. Instead, they threw solutions at him, loaded with false accusation. To summarize and paraphrase:

Eliphaz basically said, “Practice what you preach, bro. You saved others. Save yourself. If you’re good then God will bless you, but if you’re bad He’ll stress you. This tragedy and sickness is God’s discipline in your life, for failing to keep your promises, stealing clothes from the naked, doing nothing to help the hungry or the thirsty, or the naked, and for breaking the arms of the fatherless” (see chapter 22, verses 6-9). “Because of these secret sins I know you did, God has punished you.” Eliphaz seemed to think that God was very hard to please. He falsely accused Job of committing sins he wasn’t guilty of.

Doing Eliphaz one better, Zophar called Job a liar. “You say you’re so great. God’s out to get you. He is swift to take revenge. Feel His wrath! Stop sinning. Do what’s right and you’ll be blessed.”

Bildad basically said the same thing as Eliphaz: “Bad guys will get punished, but if you’re perfect, you’ll be fine.” In other words, “Snap out of it, Bub. You’ll get no sympathy from us.”

Have you ever felt blamed for not getting healed quickly enough, suffering financial loss without immediate compensation, or for failing to hear from God for something you’d been praying about for an excruciatingly long time?

Job’s friends seemed to think he should be able to heal himself. “If you say and do all the right things, God will reward you. Instant compensation!” They were quick to point fingers at Job for his failure to prosper and be in health. Unlike the Apostle John in the second verse of his third epistle, they didn’t seem to want Job to prosper, and were doing all they could to keep his soul from prospering – by condemning him for his sin and encouraging him to rely on a works-based righteousness that never could save (or heal) anyone.

Job didn’t understand why they were persecuting him (according to chapter 19, verse 22) and tried to defend himself against their false accusations. But at the same time, what he really needed and cried out for was an audience with God. He didn’t want solutions. He wanted answers only God could give him. Thankfully, Elihu, the last person to speak to Job, encouraged him to look past his pain and consider the greatness of God. “I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker” (chapter 36, verse 3).

It was after God revealed Himself to Job that he was healed (at least, we’re certainly led to believe he was). First he had to pray for his three friends, who hadn’t spoken what was right about God. After this, God began the process of restoration in his life and gave him twice as much as he had before. He was prospering in every way!

So, what can we learn from Job? Well, sometimes healing seems to take a while, especially when you have friends like he had, but one encounter with God can change all that.

“Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any (especially guys who persecute you – i.e, give you a hard time, like Job’s three friends persecuted him): that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

Afraid to Forgive

Tormented, grieved, forsaken. Oh, what pain he felt inside,

Beset by views of ugly news, from which he could not hide!

He knew he should dismiss past hurts still screaming to avenge

The wrongs that so besieged his heart, but he desired revenge.


“It’s closure I must have,” he said. “That is the path to peace.

For only then can I enjoy the fruit of sweet release,

And satisfy the anger which has locked me in this cage.

To free myself from prison, I must first appease my rage.”


Such thoughts, like sharp two-edged swords, clashed wildly inside his mind;

Chaotic clangs, with violence tinged, set to a beat unkind.

He did not see the torturers whose pitchforks, dipped in fire,

Stirred coals of shame inside his heart to magnify his ire.


“It’s not your fault,” they told him, “for the way they treated you.”

“Your hatred’s justified. Those were such awful things to do!”

But still the guilt kept hounding. He could not escape the blame.

“You too have sinned horrifically, and ridiculed God’s name.”


Fear gripped his heart with condemnation he could not ignore.

If God was mad at him, then there was nothing to live for.

He knew he must forgive and must forget but was afraid

That he’d get stolen from again and never be repaid.


He didn’t trust the sovereign Lord to care for all his needs,

But bought the lie that debt forgiveness rests upon good deeds,

He said, “I’m doomed to earn my bread by my own toil and sweat,

Let him who owes me foot the bill. Let him repay the debt.”


But what a yoke to put upon an ordinary man!

He knew it wasn’t right, and yet he had no better plan.

His blood pressure was through the roof, he wasn’t feeling well.

Then suddenly a light shone in the darkness of his cell.


The Son of God was standing there. His glory filled the room.

“I paid your debt in full,” He said. “Why all this gloom and doom?”

“I thought you were a hard man, Sir,” replied the man, amazed.

“I thought I must fend for myself, for that’s how I was raised.”


“But now I see it isn’t so. There’s no cause for alarm.

For, though you’re greatly to be feared, you’d never do me harm.”

“That’s right,” said Jesus. “All I ask of you is to believe,

In my unfailing goodness trust, and of my grace receive.”


“Remember how I shed my blood to wash away your sin.

In me, there’s life. In man, there’s death. Stick with me and you’ll win.”

“Why ask a man to pay you back for all the things he stole,

When, by my stripes, you can be healed?  For I will make you whole.”


And the moral of this poem is that forgiveness involves trusting God to pay back what the enemy stole from you, instead of demanding that some fallible human being supply your need. Yes, God can use people to provide for you, but they’re just tools in His hands. Our trust must be in Him, for He alone is faithful to the end.



Continue reading “Afraid to Forgive”

Sickness: Crutch, Cross or Enemy?

Do you serve Jesus better when you’re sick or when you’re well?

And could it be that fever is a fiery dart from hell?

Do you believe it is God’s will for you to stay depressed,

Even though God’s Word says Jesus healed all the oppressed?

He never treated sickness as a cross through which we’re blessed.


Self-pity, on the other hand, treats sickness as a cross.

“Come see me suffer for the Lord. He’s not an easy boss.”

But only God can show a person what lies in his heart.

His Spirit plumbs the depths of love that He seeks to impart,

Though some believe His goal is to upend their apple cart.


But if one’s illness is a cross, what purpose does it serve?

Does it glorify the Lord or does it strike a wounded nerve?

Man’s pride rejects God’s healing which he knows he can’t deserve.

He wants to pay for it himself. His sickness is a crutch,

Although his friends who gather near do not see it as such.


They offer him their sympathy which he will not turn it down.

Their sad words comfort him. He spreads their message all around.

No exploits are expected of this man, who’s sick in bed.

“He needs his rest. He needs his meds. Ask someone else instead.”

But who can comprehend the bitter thoughts inside his head?


Crutch, cross or enemy? Who knows? I’m not the one to judge,

But purity of doctrine is a thing I dare not fudge,

For those who would live godly lives in Christ will end up hurt.

They may be beaten physically with blows they can’t avert,

Scourged for the gospel’s sake, a man may even lose his shirt.


But that is not the same as burying one’s self in pain,

Because if it’s not done in love, then what has one to gain?

For only God is perfect love, and He believes all things.

So let’s accept that perfect love because there’s healing in His wings.

Receiving it exalts His name and of His goodness sings.



Daniel 11:32; Acts 10:38; I Corinthians 13:7

Sickness: a Crutch, not a Cross

I don’t know about you, but it’s easier for me to serve Jesus when I’m well. When I’m sick, depressed, or down-in-the-dumps, I don’t have energy to do anything for Him. Contrary to what some may teach, sickness is not a cross. At least, it was never my cross. It was my crutch. Much as I hated being sick, I loved the sympathy. When I was sick, no one expected me to be strong or do exploits. They expected me to take my meds and rest in bed.

When I was in first grade, I was very short and very shy. The teachers were mean and school was traumatic. I hated it so much, I would use any excuse to avoid going. Sickness was a great excuse. I got sick to protect myself, not to glorify God.

That’s why, when I see people equate “suffering with Christ” to being sick, it makes me want to gag. It certainly wasn’t the case with me. Besides, it isn’t Biblical. The lame man healed in Acts chapter 3 is a case in point. The way he walked and leapt and praised God drew an awesome crowd. Then Peter gave a sermon and about five thousand men get saved. Was it “suffering for God by being sick” that persuaded them to trust in Jesus? No, it was a miracle, done in Jesus’ name. Did it involve suffering? Well, any time you tell someone they’re healed in Jesus’ name, you take the risk of being wrong. To do it, I’m sure Peter and John had to die to themselves. Peter had to “take up his cross” by yielding to the Holy Spirit, who gave him words to speak to heal the crippled man. Afterwards, they both suffered persecution for preaching through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

There are many instances throughout the book of Acts where the apostles and those associated with them suffered persecution for the Word. After all, not everybody likes a healing, or any other type of miracle for that matter. Those sorts of things are too convicting. They get people saved.

Once I began to grasp the truth about God’s healing power, I stopped getting sick so much. When it comes to believing God, I’m making progress. Granted, I don’t always have perfect faith for healing. But I know that when the perfect comes – the “perfect” being Jesus when He comes back for his church – that what is imperfect will pass away, for He makes all things new.