Wednesday, March 13
Sinners don’t need work to make themselves better. They need gifts from God (v 9). Grace is a gift. Forgiveness is a gift. Faith is a gift. Rather than trying to make things work, we should accept God’s gifts. They are the manifestation of his love to us; and we can become agents of grace, forgiveness and faithfulness to others as well.
Don’t just work Jesus into your life. Make Jesus your life and work out of His abundance. Let him define and redefine what you should and can do. A Church is a community gathered around Christ. We are all equally undeserving of Christ’s gifts, and thus we are all on even footing here.
There are no scripted prayers for the next two weeks. As you meditate on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, identify passages in the readings that you could make into prayers. Literally pray the text – whether it is in request or celebration or thanksgiving or intercession. Put the words of Scripture into your mouth as prayer.
MONDAY, March 11
Consider how many times the apostle Paul uses the word we. He does not say you or they. He says we. Have you ever thought about the reality that the Church is defined as we? The apostles, the prophets, the teachers and preachers of the past – the converted Jew, the pagan who comes to Christ, the beggar, the leper, the Ephesian witches, the repentant sinner? All part of the Church with us. The Church spans ages, languages, generations and differences. The Church is not about me. It is about we.
Tuesday, March 12
Is there any higher calling for the church than the glorification of Jesus Christ? Paul does not seem to think so. Jesus is the Everything in the Church. And perhaps the great weakness of many churches is the focus on anything but Jesus, even the focus on a caricature of Him that we do not find in the Scriptures. Truly, he must be “above every name that is named” (v 22) in the Church.
And does Church end at the building on Sunday? No! It is the relationships of Christ’s followers to one another. It is everything – our homes, our work places, our sports fields. Church is living out the glory of Jesus Christ.
In 1098, the armies of the First Crusade were besieging the city of Antioch. One of the commanders, Etienne Henri Comte de Blois (Count Stephen Henry of Blois as English historians style his name), abandoned the army and fled back to France.
On his way, he encountered the armies of the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komnenos and told him that the Turkish forces were too great. Alexios, with no reason to doubt a French nobleman, did not advance further.
Eventually, the Crusaders took Antioch and repelled an attack by the Turks under Kerbogha – without Byzantine help. The failure of the Byzantines to relieve them created an animosity between the French and the Byzantines that would eventually culminate in their sack of Constantinople a century later in 1204.
Ironically, it was a Frenchman – Etienne Henri – who had prevented the Byzantine army from coming to the Crusaders’ aid.
One man did not believe in the cause, and as a result, he helped breed distrust among people who should have been allies and helped open a wound that still festers today.
Of course, the Crusades were a bloody affair and I am not advocating religious war; but it seems that if one commits to a course and others are depending on him, then you have a duty to both yourself and others to see that course through.
It is easy to surrender and call it practicality, to strike the colors of a cause you said you believed in and call it compromise. Remember, you never know who you will impact and how long that impact will echo in their lives.
I love the idea of cloud computing. Not having to constantly say, “Oh shoot! That’s on the other computer!” is worth every minute of finding the right cloud service.
But which is the right cloud service? There are a ton of them out there:
5. Amazon Cloud Drive
I cannot figure out what Amazon is hoping to accomplish with their cloud service. I really cannot. It seems almost like they just tagged it on because everyone else was doing it. While Amazon Cloud Player is a great service that allows you to stream or download digital copies of almost any song you have purchased on Amazon (and I have bought a lot of CD’s on Amazon over the years), the Cloud Drive is just plain vanilla. Upload times are awful, there are no mobile apps, and there are no real advantages to it.
4. Microsoft SkyDrive
So much potential, Microsoft; and that just leads to so much disappointment. In theory, SkyDrive should be fully integrated into Microsoft Office. It isn’t. On my Macs, I have to run an older version of Office (2011), and saving to SkyDrive is not just cumbersome – it is also unreliable. The interface is terrible. The process is confusing. It is a major frustration. Even using the downloadable client does not ensure success because there is no way to ensure it is syncing with the Cloud.
I get called an Apple fanboy all the time, but a lot of Apple products don’t impress me. Take iCloud for example (or actually because I am writing about Cloud services). The concept is great. It is supposed to be fully integrated into the Apple productivity suite iWorks. The problem is that it isn’t. You can only use the integration if you are running Mountain Lion (OS 10.8). Still running Lion, like I am on my knockaround Macbook? Sorry, you have to use an incredibly cumbersome web interface and then upload your documents EVERY TIME you save them.
2. Google Drive
I love Google Drive, in principle. What kills Google Drive is not the convenience of the service but the mediocrity of the apps it uses. I would love to replace my current document editors with Google Drive’s integrated apps, but they lack some very crucial tools. The biggest oversight is the inability to zoom. That’s right. You cannot zoom in a Google Drive document. If you use standard browser zoom, then your toolbar zooms as well and your cursor goes off like a sailor on shore leave. The mobile apps are mediocrity personified. If Google fixes this, they will rule mobile document creation.
Where Google Drive shines is in sharing your files. Drive allows all kinds of file and folder specific sharing settings, and that means you can share a document publicly without worrying about someone using the link to see your personal information on the Drive.
The old reliable is just that – reliable. Dropbox was the first name in Cloud storage, and they just keep things working. You edit a document in any program, and you save it to the Dropbox folder on your computer. You can right click items on your computer to share them through links to the Cloud, although you have to go to the browser to get the links.
Dropbox has a business model focused on keeping things as effortless as possible. Everything is integrated into your local device (whether PC or mobile). The integration on iOS has continually been improved and if Apple ever opens the sharing API to developers, Dropbox will be the first to get it right.
Dropbox’s only limitation is the size of the drive you get. I was an early adopter, so I have a 9GB Dropbox drive, and it is free to me. Most users will get stuck with 2GB unless they pay.
Services I haven’t tried.
I hear good things about Box.net and Barracuda’s newest entry into the fray, Copy. I haven’t used these services yet, so I can’t speak about them with any knowledge. I just downloaded Copy, so I will be playing with it for a couple of weeks; and I will update you when I have a better opinion.
“Today salvation has come to this house” (v 9)
Did you notice that Jesus did not say, “Salvation is come to YOU, Zacchaeus”? In touching Zacchaeus, Jesus was transforming his entire household. Zacchaeus would become the agent of transformation. Jesus made Zacchaeus into a blessing – an echo of what he had done for Abraham two thousand years before (Genesis 12:2-3).
Our faith impacts others. If it doesn’t, it isn’t much of a faith. You are not imposing your faith on others when you live out what Jesus is doing in you. The church is not pushing an agenda when we declare the gospel. We are being honest to the One who has saved us.
Take just a few moments to thank the Lord for his salvation. He is equipping you to be a blessing to our house. Celebrate this in your prayers today.
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.” (v 8)
Jesus owns the stuff you consider “yours.” If you think of giving to the ministry of the church or to those in need as giving away “your” stuff, then you do not understand this simple reality. God gives you your stuff to be a blessing to others.
If you are a parent, Jesus gives you stuff to care for and rear your children. Invest Jesus’ stuff like Zacchaeus did. Meet needs and open your home to Jesus’ people – even if they’re not necessarily “your” people – because they are His.
Jesus, thank you for the privilege of caring for your stuff. Thank you for the relationships you have given me. Help me to strengthen and reinforce them with Your Word and Your Spirit.
“And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him.” (18:43)
When Jesus went to eat at Zacchaeus’ house, he was accompanied by at least a small group of people. One member of that group had been a starving blind beggar at the gates of Jericho. He was invited into not just relationship with Jesus but also with his fellow believer, Zacchaeus. The faith in Christ was immediately a shared faith. The only commonality Zacchaeus and the blind man had was Jesus. And that was enough.
Father, I might not have a lot in common with my fellow believers, but having you in common is enough. Help me to be a peacemaker among my brothers and sisters in the faith.