What’s in a name ? Ask Zacchaeus

“If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will payback 4 times the amount” – the words of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 v 8

I have worked for many years in the manufacture of vaccines. The process requires water which is purified from bacteria. This pure water is usable because it is free from contamination. However, bacteria always look for an opportunity to re-corrupt the water and spoil it making it unusable.

Zacchaeus was a tax inspector. Trouble was, he used his position to take extra bonus taxes all for himself. His personal pockets were full of cash.

His name, Zacchaeus, actually means “uncorrupted” or “pure”. In Jewish culture, names were very important. In other words, when his parents chose that name with the best of intentions, they hoped he would be known for great character. But his “bonus tax collection” strategy destroyed that reputation. Just like bacteria re-invading water. The “uncorrupted” Zacchaeus had become the “corrupted” Zacchaeus.

After meeting Jesus, he comes to a realisation that his life needs to change.

Jesus takes him back to the name “uncorrupted” that was the very best his parents could do at his birth. But the encounter of meeting Jesus means that he comes right though to a new name that confirms his new identity – “son of Abraham”. This declared to the Jews that he now belonged to God.

In other words, Jesus was saying “Your parents wanted you to be known as a man of integrity. Now I have put my seal on your life. Even the name Zacchaeus is not good enough for you. “Son of Abraham” confirming your identity as MY SON is the ultimate name. The crowd muttered hearing that Jesus had actually had showed Zacchaeus such respect that he visited his home but they would have come to see the change when they got their personal  “tax rebate”. Just imagine the scene :-

 

House number 142 Jericho Street :

Zacchaeus:     “Knock knock”

Tenant            “Who’s there”

Zacchaeus:     “Zachaeus”

Tenant:          “Not you again. I’ve given you the extra taxes already this month !”

Zacchaeus      “I’ve come to say sorry. I was wrong and selfish to get extra taxes from you. I used them to line my own pockets. Here– let me give you back 4 times what I took. You see when I met this man Jesus and it changed everything.

Tenant:          Are you kidding me ?

Zacchaeus:    Please take the money – I was wrong.

Tenant:          Could you tell me more about Jesus ? I find this change in your life amazing. Come in and BE A GUEST AT MY HOME. I want to know more. Tea or coffee Zacchaeus ?

 

Can you imagine the hundreds that would have heard the life changing power of meeting Jesus and would have turned to Christ themselves ?

Are you seeking to reach one person with the gospel who you know has a bad reputation in town ? Don’t underestimate the power of gospel to reach one corrupted person to be given a new name which impacts hundreds.

 

Jon

Jon Gledhill is a member of Hope Church Luton
Jon Gledhill is a member of Hope Church Luton

 

 

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Ignore The ‘I’m An Idiot’ Feeling – Remember Jesus & Lazarus

‘I’ve got some news for you, it’s going to be a shock’ was a Monday morning phone call a while ago from one of our contractors at work. I’d been chasing his Dad to quote for some repairs,  and last spoke to the Dad the Thursday before. At the other end of the phone the son was saying his Dad had an accident the following morning and had died, and apologising for the delayed quote.

It was a shock because I first met his Dad over 10 years ago, had done business with him, he’d been to my house, I’d been to his house – even stroked his dog. Found myself wondering if I was the last Christian to have spoke to him?… Even more surprising was that his son seemed to be more concerned about how I might be feeling than himself.

It was a double shock because a different contractor had just left my office having replied to my half hearted ‘How r u?’ with the news that his Mum had just died, and that he had now lost both parents in a year, as well as a young child, and his wife was semi permanently hospitalised. As he sat in my chair with tears in his eyes I felt overwhelmed and powerless to help and completely void of anything to say. Feeling slightly stupid, I offered to pray, which seemed to be welcomed, but his phone went off, someone else walked up the stairs , and I couldn’t think of what to pray. Don’t think anything happened…

By the end of these two conversations my sense of the overwhelming need and the tragedy that hits people’s lives around us had left me provoked and stirred up – angry at the injustice of it all? And passionately saying to God ‘Come On, do something to help!’

The following morning the son whose Dad had just died turned up to finish the quote. I told him i thought his Dad was a man i could trust, who did a good job. The son told me his worries about taking over the business. I knew I must offer to pray, but I still felt silly, like I was risking looking stupid. Just like last time. I felt I should do what the Bible says and ‘lay hands’ on him as I prayed, but that this would be too mad, so I suggested we ‘shake on it’. So as we shook hands I prayed my best prayer. When we released our ‘shake’ the son looked at me very surprised ‘I felt something in my hand! What was that?’ I was very surprised as in all the times I’d prayed for people outside of a church meeting I’d never noticed much happen. I managed to reply ‘Must be God’.

What did I learn from this?

Every time I’ve prayed with non Christians for healing or help, I’ve felt like I’m jumping in with both feet risking being an idiot. Maybe that feeling will never go away, but as nobody I’ve offered to pray for has ever said they felt it was stupid, maybe it’s just me and I should ignore those feelings in future.

I felt like I’d prayed for lots of non Christians without noticing anything happen, and that when something did happen I hadnt done anything different leading up to it. Only God did. Wondering if I should have the mindset of keeping on offering to pray, until someone gets healed, or freedom from a word of knowledge, but not worry about how many times I pray without the person noticing any improvement, to not give up but keep on pushing myself to offer to pray without being put off by ‘my’ track record.

The key difference was that I was provoked, stirred up, angry by what was happening. My heart had been grabbed with a passionate desire that God do something. Like Jesus before he prayed for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, I should allow myself to be ‘deeply moved in Spirit and troubled’ and respond accordingly.

Dean  is Office Manager at Hope Church Luton, married with two children.
Dean is Office Manager at Hope Church Luton, married with two children.

 

Clinging On To Dead Leaves 

Hebrews 12 v 1   “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles….”

We recently received a prophecy about loving our town, Luton. Before we could love the town, we needed to allow God to cleanse and heal our lives first of all.

Changes of season always happen in England. We might prefer summer not to turn to autumn or autumn to winter but seasonal changes are as sure as the laws of gravity.

Whilst praying this morning I was reminded of a prophecy I gave 20 years ago.

The picture was of autumn leaves falling to the ground from the “trees of our lives” as a season changed. As the season changed, God intended that the old leaves fell away. However, in the prophetic picture, we were also clinging on to some of the dead leaves as a kind of attempt to hold on to the old familiar ways, things we felt were critical for on-going comfort and situations which used to be good but now had no purpose.

Many trees actually deposit waste poisons into dead leaves to excrete them from the tree as they fall off. The leaves effectively become the collecting vessels for plant “sewage”. What was once a useful leaf is now carrying something which needs to fall away to protect the health of the tree. For the tree to hold onto the dead leaves would be to invite the poisons back into the life of the tree.

For myself and, perhaps those who read this blog, holding onto the familiar is a real temptation but it hinders us from embracing the new.

So what are these dead leaves that we hold on to ?

One is easy to identify and one more subtle and likely more dangerous.

We usually know “the sin that so easily entangles” and, with the help of others, we can get free of it albeit by process.

The more difficult areas seem to be the “everything that hinders” bag. This maybe because they often involve things that were once good but are now holding us back as their “useful shelf life” has now expired. These things can potentially damage unless they are removed and allowed to die. They have become structural comfort zones.

This “bag of hindrances” might include a wide variety of things. Things like relationships which we have become over dependant on, certain material possessions, old ministry methods and even familiar ministry positions need to go once they have served their purpose. To hold on to them is to make the good “the enemy of the best”.

As I write this, I myself acknowledge the things that God may be asking me to cut loose to lead me forward.

These things need to be shared with trusted friends. I know there are certain things that I suspect maybe dead leaves that I need to fall to the ground to become useful fertiliser for the future.

 

So, to finish, let’s throw out some questions for us all :-

  1. What do we know instinctively needs to go from our lives in order to progress in our journey with God ?
  2. Are we holding onto good things which “are enemies of the best for us” ?
  3. Have we asked God to reveal the dead leaves by his Holy Spirit and for the courage to let things go when the Spirit of God highlights these things ?

 

May our “trees” flourish in this new season of loving our town.

 

Jon

Jon Gledhill is a member of Hope Church Luton
Jon Gledhill is a member of Hope Church Luton

 

 

How do we get the compassion of Christ? Part 2

In my previous blog I introduced some of Paul reasoning in 2 Corinthians that links the fact that our receiving compassion and comfort from God in our suffering enables us to offer this to others in theirs. The insistence of many, including people in Corinth, that as sons of God we should have a trouble free existence is refuted.

This is built on in 2 Corinthians 3 v7-12

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

We are not a fancy perfect pot that draws attention away from what it contains. We are a broken flower pot, a plain, vulnerable clay jar which allows the glorious content that it contains to be shown off.

Another way of looking at it is a Mosaic made up of broken tiles or glass which comes together to produce a glorious picture.

There are no short cuts in the Christian life. It is the opposite of what some people think – come to Christ and all your problems are solved, have a wonderful pain free life.

Christianity is based on the cross, God with us in our suffering, comforting us in our suffering.

One of my very first prayers as a follower of Jesus was “God use me”. I distinctly remember what I felt he replied, you want to be used, I want to make you usable.

If you ask God for compassion, then found life got harder probably the two are linked!

The key is to take your eyes of yourself and put them on to the Father of compassion and God of all comfort; to embrace the truth of our vulnerability, but also his treasure, his sufficiency.

That is how we love Luton!

Those who have suffered most themselves are not disqualified from Loving Luton, they are the most qualified.

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.