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July 28 Transformation Garden

 

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1: 6
K.J.V.

“God is on my side. He makes Himself responsible for my being. If I will only entrust myself to Him with the cordial return of trustful love, then all that He has ever breathed into my heart of human possibility He will realize and bring to perfection.”
Charles Gore

Today’s Study Text:

“When she (the Queen of Sheba) had come to Solomon, she communed with him about all that was in her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king which he failed to explain to her.”
1 Kings 10: 2, 3
Amplified Bible

EXPLORATION:

“Lessons Taught By the Lady From Sheba” Part 3

Lesson #3 – From the words of Jesus found in Matthew: “Are you listening to this? Really listening?…God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.”
Matthew 13: 43,45
The Message Bible

“It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures! For it is not possible ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well that has no bottom.”
John Chrysostom

If I had been in the Queen of Sheba’s “sandals,” what kind of questions and thoughts would I have had for Solomon?

Knowing that the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon to find out about the God he served, how do I imagine Solomon responded to her questions?

“The Bible is the greatest traveler in the world. It penetrates to every country, civilized and uncivilized. It is seen in the royal palace and in the humble cottage. It is the friend of emperors and beggars. It is read by the light of the dim candle amid Arctic snows. It is read under the glare of the equatorial sun. It is read in city and country, amid the crowds and in solitude. Wherever the message is received, it frees the mind from bondage and fills the heart with gladness.”
A.T. Pierson

INSPIRATION:

“Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful…showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”
II Timothy 3: 16
The Message Bible

An Arabian Queen with an inquisitive mind. Oh, how I would have loved to call the gracious lady from Sheba my BFF! And through the study of God’s Word, the Bible, God’s daughters and sons around the world can come to receive a much sharper image of this woman who came to visit Solomon, first and foremost, because she wanted to more clearly understand “his connection with the Name of God,” as The Message Bible tells us.

I like the way The Message Bible paraphrases our study text for today:

“She came to Solomon and talked about all the things that she cared about.”

At a time in history when “intellectual” pursuits were mainly left to the male gender, I find it notable that King Solomon not only answered the Queen of Sheba’s questions, but in no way did he try to dissuade her with demeaning words, questioning why a “woman” was so interested in the deeper things of God. Frankly, this exchange reminded me of a day in Bethany where the events were recorded by Dr. Luke, whom I believe, was an eye-witness to what transpired in the home of Martha.

Having stopped for some rest and refreshment in this welcoming abode, Jesus found time to share what was on His heart. The Bible tells us that another female trendsetter, Mary, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to all He said while her sister Martha was absorbed, or as the Amplified Bible notes, she was “distracted with much serving.”

Feeling frustrated by her sister’s lack of interest in what Martha deemed important, she took her complaint directly to Jesus, basically ordering Him to intercede on her behalf and tell her sister, Mary, to get into the kitchen — post haste!

It is at this juncture we find Jesus weighing in with these words, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one! Mary has chosen the good portion that which is to her advantage, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 38-42, Amplified Bible).

What a correlation there is between the Queen of Sheba in the Old Testament and Mary of Bethany in the New Testament. They were both women who longed to learn about spiritual things and they were both rewarded by those they sought to study with.

Both defied the tradition of society. In the words of Jesus, they chose to “learn of God!” And both were honored as they came away from their spiritual encounters feeling blessed and renewed.

But it wasn’t only to these two women that encouragement was given to learn of God and His kingdom. is kingdomIn the book of Matthew, we find that Jesus shared multiple parables with those who came to listen to His words. But in one particular story, He told about the quest of a gem specialist — a jewel dealer — who was on the hunt for pearls. When this man found the “One,” he came to the conclusion that this single “flawless” pearl was so valuable, that he must sell everything to purchase this unique and unparalleled discovery!

When I look at the great lengths the Queen of Sheba went to as she pursued the knowledge she wished to obtain about the God of heaven and earth, I find myself awed by the fact that an individual who appeared to be outside the “family circle” of God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, had such a longing and desire to know about the God, who had profoundly blessed King Solomon. There was no impediment which she allowed to block her way from making, what I imagine to be, a very grueling journey across a windswept desert perched atop a camel.

And this brings us to the third lesson we can learn from the “Lady From Sheba.” She teaches us to seek, with unfailing vigor, after the knowledge and understanding buried in God’s Word about His kingdom. Just as the one, precious pearl was buried treasure, waiting to be revealed to the person who would take the extra time to make its discovery, so God’s Word is to you and me a field full of gems, revealing truths that will guide our lives and prevent us from traveling outside the will of God. I love the way Thomas Watson highlighted this exact point when he wrote: “The Bible is a rock of diamonds, a chain of pearls, the sword of the Spirit, a chart by which the Christian sails to eternity; the map by which (she) daily walks; the sundial by which (she) sets (her) life; the balance in which (she) weighs (her) actions.”

What a lesson for us to take away from the life of the Queen of Sheba, whose  mission to find answers to her questions and to find out about King Solomon’s connection to the God of heaven and earth, left her with a vision of God’s infinite wisdom, knowledge.

“I believe that the Bible is the best gift that God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
Abraham Lincoln

AFFIRMATION:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
Psalm 119: 105
K.J.V.

“O Lord, You have given us Your Word for a light to shine upon our path; inspire us to meditate on that word and to follow its teaching, that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jerome
(347-420)

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S. Just to let you know, Transformation Garden is now on FACEBOOK. Please come and see us and share the garden with your friends. The Daily Devotional is posted everyday, Monday through Friday on Facebook, too.

My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-281-1508.

 

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July 27 Transformation Garden

 

“Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life. O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You.”
Psalm 25: 1,2
Amplified Bible

“Lord, You are my lover,
My longing,
My flowing stream,
My sun,
And I am Your reflection.”
Mechtild of Magdeburg
(1207-1292)

Today’s Study Text:

“She came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels bearing spices, very much gold, and precious stones.”
1 Kings 10: 2
Amplified Bible

EXPLORATION:

“Lessons Taught By the Lady From Sheba” Part 2

Lesson #2 – From the words of Jesus: “Give, and there will be gifts for you; a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.”
Luke 6: 38
N.J.B.

“It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.”
Psalm 112: 5
N.R.S.V.

“Generosity”: Magnanimous. Liberal in giving. Bounteous. Marked by abundance.

“A man there was, though some did count him mad, the more he cast away, the more he had.”
John Bunyan

What does the word ‘generous’ mean in my own life?

In what ways do I feel I could be more generous in my life?

Are there other ways than just “giving” money that I can show a spirit of generosity?

“A cheerful giver does not count the cost of what (she) gives. (Her) heart is set on pleasing and cheering (the person) to whom the gift is given.”
John of Norwich

INSPIRATION:

“The truly generous is the truly wise, and (she) who loves not others, lives unblest.”
Henry Home

I love this familiar Persian Proverb:

“What I kept, I lost;
What I spent, I had;
What I gave, I have.”

What true words, for it is what we share throughout life’s journey that not only blesses the recipient, but also showers abundant blessings upon the giver as well.  And this becomes an important element in today’s study, as we come to the second lesson we can learn from the “Lady From Sheba.”

Because of her desire to find out more about the wisdom of Solomon, and as was revealed yesterday, in the God who he served, she decided to make the long, arduous journey to Jerusalem to see if what she had heard about Solomon was really true.

But here’s where Lesson #2 shines out immediately. The Queen didn’t arrive at Solomon’s doorstep empty-handed. She came bearing gifts.

While there are some scholars who note that there was a huge potential for a political alliance between the Queen of Sheba’s country and Israel, the idea that she would arrive with gifts would not necessarily be out of the ordinary. However, if we take the Bible as it is written, which we do here in Transformation Garden, the key reason noted in 1 Kings 10 for the Queen’s visit was her desire specifically to learn from Solomon. And to zero in more closely on her special aim, she wanted to find out more about the God he served, the God who had blessed him so abundantly with wisdom and understanding as well as bountiful prosperity.

We find that as the Queen’s caravan arrived in Jerusalem, there were camels laden with “spices, much gold and precious stones.” There’s every indication that the Queen of Sheba came with an over-abundance of gifts, and I asked myself, “Why?”

First, she may have wanted to impress Solomon with her own wealth and that of her country.

Second, indeed, she may have wanted to use these gifts as “carrots” dangling before Solomon, hoping to draw him into a trade alliance.

However, since I’ve read the entire story of the “Lady From Sheba,” I’d like to offer a third reason she came bearing gifts and it is simply this — she was a generous-hearted person who came to Jerusalem with an unselfish heart and not an empty hand. Just as the Magi from the East arrived at the manger of the baby Jesus bearing gifts, so the Queen from Arabia came to learn about the God of heaven and earth and from an open and inquiring heart, she generously shared the bounty with which she was blessed.

What an important lesson for you and me to take away from this God-ordained encounter between an Arab Queen and an Israelite King.

Recently I read words from a writer who noted that in today’s modern society, we have replaced the spirit of generosity with a word we call “charity.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not demeaning charitable giving in the least. I’ve worked for literally hundreds of charitable organizations in my 30-year career. I’ve witnessed first-hand, the tremendous benefits which come to “givers” and “receivers” who share in the blessings provided by unselfish hearts that serve.

But how often I’ve wondered, just what the consequence would be, if generous hearts were so prevalent and gave with such unfettered abundance that there was no need for organizations to have to pay for the costs associated with funding complete departments in their organizations with staff whose job it is to do nothing but ask for money.

In the life of the Queen of Sheba, I find an individual who gave without being asked. And I’ll even go another step further. We find throughout the Bible, that while the word “generous” or “generosity” is not used, both in the Hebrew and Greek, a word used by Webster’s Dictionary to define “generosity” is used over-and-over, and it is the word abundance, which in the Hebrew means majesty and greatness and in the Greek means abounding copiously or in large quantity.

Interestingly, in the Old Testament, the word “abundance,” which can mean generosity, is not used to denote God’s ability to give us wealth and make us live on “Easy Street.” Instead, this word is used to define God’s mercy, His long-suffering nature and His unfailing kindness. And I’d like to interject, this was exactly why the Queen of Sheba made her lengthy desert trip to Jerusalem. She wanted to get a glimpse into the life which God envisioned for those of His children who had open hearts and generous spirits like hers.

In doing some study for today’s devotional, I was led to the book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, and I wondered to myself if it was wisdom like this that he shared with the Queen of Sheba:

The profit of the earth is for all; the king himself is served by the field and in all, a king is an advantage to a land with cultivated fields. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves abundance with gain. This also is vanity, (emptiness, falsity, and futility.)
Ecclesiastes 5: 9, 10
Amplified Bible

What we come to understand from the Queen of Sheba is that a generous heart, a giving hand, and a spirit of unselfishness brings untold joy to the bearer of gifts. Please remember, it is not the size of the gift, it is the act of giving which releases a torrent of blessings in our lives. Jesus made this profoundly clear, when one day, at the Temple offering bucket, He witnessed a small gift being put into the “treasury.” This is how Mark tells the story in Mark 12: 41-44 (Amplified Bible):

“And (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and saw how the crowd was casting money into the treasury. Many rich people were throwing in large sums. And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites, the smallest coins, which together make half of a cent. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘Truly and surely I tell you, this widow has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury. For they all threw in out of their abundance, but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had — even all she had on which to live.”

As Sir Henry Talor so eloquently penned, “He who gives what he would as readily as he throws away, gives without generosity, for the essence of generosity is self-sacrifice.” These words mirror those spoken by Jesus and are a clear call to each of us to cultivate a heart of generous giving in our own lives.

“You do not have to be rich to be generous. If he has the spirit of true generosity, a pauper can give like a prince.”
Corrine U. Wells

AFFIRMATION:

“We let the world overcome us; we live too much in continual fear of the chances and changes of mortal life. We let things go too much their own way. We try too much to get what we can by our own selfish wits, without considering our neighbour. We follow too much the ways and fashions of the day, doing and saying and thinking anything that comes uppermost, just because there is so much around us. Free us from our selfish interests, and guide us, good Lord, to see Thy way and to do Thy will.”
Charles Kingsley
1814-1875

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S. Just to let you know, Transformation Garden is now on FACEBOOK. Please come and see us and share the garden with your friends. The Daily Devotional is posted everyday, Monday through Friday on Facebook, too.

My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-281-1508.

 

July 26 Transformation Garden

“They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4: 13 K.J.V.

“O hearts of love!
O souls that turn like sunflowers
to the pure and best!
To you the truth is manifest;
For they the mind of Christ discern
Who lean like John upon His breast.”
John G. Whittier

Today’s Study Text:

“When the Queen of Sheba heard of the constant connection of the fame of Solomon with the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions.”
1 Kings 10: 1
Amplified Bible

EXPLORATION:

“Lessons Taught By the Lady From Sheba” Part 1

Lesson #1 – From the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves. For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you use to deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.”
Matthew 7: 1, 2
Amplified Bible

’’By what measuring stick do I judge those around me who do not have the same point-of-view as I have?

How do I judge those whose religious beliefs are not the same as mine?

How do I put into practice each day the words of Jesus found in Matthew 7: 1, 2?

“Be quick to judge yourself and not to judge others.”
Author Unknown

INSPIRATION:

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Mother Teresa

Today, we begin a 10-day study on the “Lady from Sheba,” as I like to refer to this foreign queen who came to visit the legendary King Solomon. To say there’s a lot we can learn from this gracious woman would be an understatement.

As we begin to dig deeply into the lessons God has for us from the life of the Queen of Sheba, I want to lay out for you what I have uncovered as I’ve researched this unique woman.

Biblical scholars and historians provide some illumination on the geographical location which gave this lady her name.

Sheba is considered to be a country in southwest Arabia, which in our current day is a country called Yemen. The region where the country of Sheba lay was the mountainous and fertile part of Arabia. Genealogists of the Bible regarded “Sheba”, (most likely one, two or three different individuals had this name), as the source of the country’s name as well as the descendents’ name which was the Sabeans.

The country of Sheba was known for gaining its wealth by controlling the perfume and incense trade. And as we delve into the generosity displayed by the Queen of Sheba, we’ll recognize the fact that her country of origin was flush with gifts which underscore what history shares with us.

It was in the 10th century B.C., when the Queen of Sheba, propelled by a longing to find out about, not only the wisdom of Solomon, but the God of heaven and earth who had bestowed upon Solomon such wisdom and prosperity, came to Jerusalem bearing gold, precious stones and spices which she exchanged with King Solomon.

It is here, for today, that I wish to stop for a moment to reveal the first lesson we find taught to God’s daughters and sons around the world in the 21st century, by the “Lady from Sheba.”

Throughout David’s reign as King of Israel, despite his moral failing, there was no question that the one and only God of heaven and earth was the Lord God of David’s life. In fact, there was no greater longing in David’s heart than to build a house of worship where his heavenly Father’s presence would dwell. But having been a man of war, or as the Bible tells us, a man of blood, God gave the task of building a Temple to David’s son, Solomon. As we studied several weeks ago, this became, in the first half of Solomon’s time on the throne of Israel, his all-consuming passion. Building a house of worship to God was the singular purpose of Solomon’s life. Knowing that this was his goal, we find that rather than excluding other leaders in surrounding countries from helping him with this enormous undertaking, King Solomon chose to engage King Hiram and other leading figures outside of Israel to bring the best the then known world had to offer, in completing the Temple to honor Jehovah. I want to add, this was initially for one reason only — and that was to bring glory — exceptional and unique glory — to the name of God. And this is exactly what happened!

We are told in our study text for today that it wasn’t just the brilliance of Solomon that drew the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, but it was also Solomon’s connection with the “name of God.” How beautiful is that! After reading this fact I asked myself, “Would someone who is not a follower of the God of heaven and earth, be drawn to me because they had heard of my connection to my heavenly Father and of His special blessing on my life?” I ask you, “Could the same be said about your life — that you have a heavenly connection which others want to share in?”

King Solomon could have “shunned” the “Lady from Sheba.” She was from Arabia. She wasn’t an Israelite. She was a non-believer. A foreigner. A heathen, as some might call her. Yet, Solomon did not disregard this Queen. Instead, he welcomed her to the heart of Israel — Jerusalem — the city of David.

As I reflected on this gesture of kindness, my mind was carried to the words of Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, found in the book of Matthew in the New Testament. In a clarion call to suspend the harsh judgment we often apply toward others, Jesus asked His followers, especially, to “judge not.” I’ll add, there were no exclusions to this command. Jesus didn‘t say that you were off-the-hook if the people you disagreed with were not Christians or had some other behavior you deemed in-appropriate. He just stated, “Judge not!”

So often, I think that as Christians, we have somehow come to the conclusion that if we don’t “call-out” behavior we think does not follow the “guidelines” established by whatever religious banner we choose to fly over ourselves, that we are compromising our values. I’d like to turn this idea upside down and offer this perspective. If what I have to share with those around me, who may believe a different way than I do, doesn’t make them feel more loved, more included, and more accepted, then I‘ve completely missed the point of Jesus’ earthly ministry for His work was wrapping His arms tightly around those whom His’ society turned their backs on and tossed out like yesterday’s garbage.

Several months ago, here in Transformation Garden, a girl wrote me. She shared some very personal details about her life. And then she asked me this question, “Will you pray for a person like me?” I wanted to weep that she even felt she had to ask a question like this. But having been rejected by so many who wore the label of “Christian,” she evidently thought that perhaps I wouldn’t want to pray for her. Thankfully, I could tell her that here in the Garden, we pray for everyone — because the God of heaven and earth — your Father and mine — loves each of us as though there was only one of us. And when His Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth, He brought with Him His Father’s heavenly love that is big enough to embrace the worst of us!

Recently, I read a story that really hit home with me. I live in a town known for a great deal of New Age philosophy. In fact, over eleven years ago, when Jim and I moved here, a friend, rather mockingly asked, “Oh, are you New Agers now?” I told her, “No, we are Christians.” But then I went on to tell her about all the wonderful individuals God had led us to meet — and one of the women is a devout Buddhist.  Every time we go to lunch, inevitably, the conversation turns to things spiritual. But what took me by surprise was when I was asked, several years ago, to do a reading on Good Friday, at our local library from my book, When A Woman Meets Jesus. My friend showed up, unannounced. Furthermore, she was the last to leave, walking with me out to my car. And she shared that in her house, growing up as a child, there was no Bible. But she said to me, “You know, Dorothy, after hearing tonight about the way Jesus treated and loved women, if I had heard stories like that in my childhood, I would love Jesus like you do.”

As I told you, it was my experience with this friend that became the reason the following story struck such a cord in my heart:

“A mother living in Japan called the head mistress of a mission school.

‘Do you take only beautiful girls in your school?’ she inquired.

‘Why, no! We welcome all girls,’ was the reply.

‘But I have noticed that all your girls are beautiful,’ the woman exclaimed.

‘Well, we teach our girls to love our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and He gives them a look of holy beauty,’ replied the missionary.

‘I myself am a Buddhist,’ the mother noted, ‘I do not want my daughter to become a Christian. Yet, I should like her to attend your school to get that look on her face,’ was the reply.”

The first lesson we can take away from the “Lady of Sheba” is that when we choose not to judge another by our own standard, but instead, allow God’s heavenly love to radiate through us and around us, we will become an illuminating presence that draws others, as 1 Kings 10: 1 tells us, the Queen of Sheba was drawn to visit Solomon. Why? Because of his “connection with the Name of God” (The Message Bible).

“Do not be angry that you cannot make others as you would wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”
Thomas á Kempis

AFFIRMATION:

“I want that adorning Divine
Thou only, my God, canst bestow;
I want in these beautiful garments to shine
Which mark out Thy household below.”
Charlotte Elliott

“Here is a plain strip of canvas. Before it stands the master painter. ‘Do you see the golden sunset?’ he asks. ‘Trust yourself to me and I will paint its glory in your face.’ And the canvas says, ‘I am coarse in texture. I am scant in size. I do not see how you can fill me with the glory of that sunset sky.’ And the master says, ‘Yield and you shall see.’”
Author Unknown

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S. Just to let you know, Transformation Garden is now on FACEBOOK. Please come and see us and share the garden with your friends. The Daily Devotional is posted everyday, Monday through Friday on Facebook, too.

My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-281-1508.

July 25 Transformation Garden

 

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23
King James Version

EXPLORATION

How God treats despised sinners.”

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.”
Luke 19: 1, 2
N.I.V.

“Life is filled with meaning as soon as Jesus enters it.”
Stephen Neill

INSPIRATION

“One could view the whole life of Jesus from first to last as a single continuing exploit in breaking down the walls that separate people.”
Harvey Cox

When I was a child, I learned a song that went like this:

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.
And when the Master passed his way He looked up in the tree.
And He said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down, for I’m going to your house today.’”

There were all kinds of hand motions we did as we sang this song about a despised tax collector who became a devoted follower of Jesus.

To understand why Zacchaeus was such a despised person, we need to look back into the historical setting in which he lived. Luke 19 tells us that Zacchaeus was a Jew.  And he wasn’t just any tax collector – he was the chief tax collector. Tax collectors or publicans are referred to 22 times in the gospels. These men were wealthy individuals who paid for the privilege of collecting taxes in certain localities. Often people like Zacchaeus employed other Jews to do the actual collecting of taxes and tolls for them. What made these people so despised was that they sold their services to the Roman government. They represented the country that dominated the Jewish nation – Rome.  Often their methods of getting money could be shady to say the least. These tax collectors many times overcharged the people and pocketed the surplus. In writings by some of the Rabbis, they are referred to as “robbers.” They were looked upon by most people as “renegades, who sold their services to the foreign oppressor to make money at the expense of their own countrymen.”

Jesus’ acceptance of these despised humans, even including Matthew, a tax collector as one of His twelve disciples, infuriated the religious folk of the day. Matthew 9: 11 gives a record of the Pharisees questioning why Jesus would “eat with tax collectors and sinners?” A guilt by association accusation.

And then, the icing on the cake came when the chief tax collector, a man we learn was extremely wealthy, decided he wanted to meet Jesus.

We will never know what first drew Zacchaeus to want to learn more about Jesus. I like to think it may have been the fact that this wealthy man realized no amount of money was enough to fill the empty place in his soul. And when He heard Jesus talk about calling, “sinners to repentance,” this message of acceptance hit a responsive cord in Zacchaeus’ heart. The cords of love that Jesus wrapped around this man with money began to pull him toward a new life.

As the Bible tells us in Luke 19, Zacchaeus, who was short, heard Jesus was coming to Jericho, so he climbed into a tree to watch Jesus pass by.  But Jesus didn’t just keep walking. Instead, He stopped, looked up into the tree, and told Zacchaeus to come down. Then He invited Himself to lunch at the tax collector’s home.

Luke 19: 7 says, “all the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’”

What happened next is one of those “WOW” moments in the life of Jesus. Luke tells us, “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’”

I like the thoughts Martyn Percy shares about this encounter in his book, Sensing the Crowds:

“In Christian memory and tradition Zacchaeus is portrayed as either fraudulent or as a collaborator with the occupying Roman government…The reaction of the crowd bears this out. They all “murmured” that Jesus had gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ Zacchaeus, meanwhile, has responded to Jesus’ visit by giving half his goods to the poor. Then comes the hidden sting in the story, for he adds that if he has defrauded anyone of anything he will restore it fourfold. That ‘if’ must be one of the most important two-letter words in the Gospels. That Zacchaeus is despised by the crowd is not in doubt. But nowhere in the story does it say that he was dishonest. He is simply hated for what he does…

“What then does Jesus’ action signify? Simply this: that in the midst of a crowd bestowing their adulation he refuses to side with their base prejudices. Zacchaeus is affirmed for who he is…Consistently, Jesus sides with the ostracized, the rejected, the unclean, the impure, the (alleged) sinner, and the half-breeds. He is no crowd pleaser, he is their confounder. Even before the palm branches are stripped from the trees, and the cries of ‘Blessed!’ are heard, Jesus is a disturber of crowds. He does not want their praise; he wants their commitment.”

It was the commitment that Zacchaeus gave to Jesus. He went from being despised to devoted. A devotion that wasn’t just lip service but heart service. A devotion that reached not only into this wealthy man’s heart but into his pocketbook. How did Jesus treat despised sinners? He loved them. He regarded them. He welcomed them. And he offered them a better life. A new life. A life that filled them to overflowing.

For Zacchaeus, giving half of all he had and more meant little in return for the fullness he received from Jesus. In the words of H. A. Ironside, “No one ever lost out by excessive devotion to Christ.” And you can count on Zacchaeus saying “AMEN” to that!

“Lord, make me according to Thy heart.”
Brother Lawrence

AFFIRMATIONS

Godly Curiosity

“Praiseworthy to a high degree
Is Godly curiosity;
To search the Lord, above, around,
If happily He may yet be found.
Short-sighted reason, dwarf desire,
Are faith and zeal when lifted higher.
Then on the Tree of Life sublime
With hand and knees devoutly climb;
Catch mercy’s moments as they fly,
Behold! The Lord is passing by.”
Christopher Smart

“Open my eyes that I may see.
Incline my heart that I may desire.
Order my steps that I may follow.”
Lancelot Andrewes

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

 

Transformation Garden July 24

 

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23 King James Version

EXPLORATION

How God treats sinners who repeatedly fail.”

“Soon afterward, Jesus went on through towns and villages, preaching and bringing the Good News of the gospel of the kingdom of God.  And the twelve apostles were with Him.  And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases; Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled.”  Luke 8: 1,2 The Amplified Bible

“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself.”
J. I. Packer

Knowing God

INSPIRATION

“I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings, there’s nothing left of your sins.  Come back to me,  come back.  I’ve redeemed you.”
Isaiah 44: 22
The Message

A few years ago, my niece Bethanie asked me to help her put a résumé together.  She was applying for a new job and wanted to present herself in the most professional way possible.  Working to help her assemble facts about her life was a good experience for me because I began to do a little research on what is important when someone is trying to put their “best foot forward.”

Bethanie’s final résumé told where she was born and went to school.  It gave her educational and job experience. We highlighted her accomplishments and honors.  And to show she was well-rounded we told a little about her hobbies outside of work.  Along with her warm personality and a well-written and truthful résumé, she made a great impression and was hired by the first company she interviewed with.

Now let’s just say your résumé starts out like this:

Name:                                      Mary (very common at that time in history)
Address:                                  Magdala (A coastal city)
Family:                                    Unknown
Work experience:                    Unknown
Educational Background:      Unknown
Health:                                       Possessed by 7 demons

Do you believe you could impress anyone with a résumé that looked like that?  I know I couldn’t.  Let’s even go one step further. What if someone came to your church and wanted to be a member and this was what they told you about themselves.  Do you think everyone would be thrilled to admit Mary of Magdala into the ranks?  And what if you had a guest speaker at your church and Mary wanted to sit on the front row?  Don’t you think someone might worry that she’d have one of her “demon” attacks right in the middle of the service and embarrass everybody? Let’s be honest, the thought would cross my mind!

And yet – when Jesus gathered a group of faithful followers – disciples – around Him, those who traveled with Him from city to city and town to town, His group included a tax collector, a bunch of rough-neck fishermen, a doubter, a betrayer, a rich woman, a poor man, and a devil possessed woman who kept being visited again and again by the evil one.  The Bible says that 7 times Mary had to have Jesus cast out the evil spirit that plagued her mind and tried to destroy her life.

The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Mary fell back under the power of the evil one because of her own willfully sinful behavior or if it was a demon that kept attacking a weak soul. Whatever the problem, Mary fell under the spell of the wicked one over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again! Yes!  Seven times! And I want to assure you, if Mary had needed Jesus’ healing power eight times – He would have been there to touch her life again.  That’s how God treats us when we repeatedly fall. As long as we keep calling out to Him, He will come to us!  Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t give us a license to sin freely, knowing our God of love will forgive.  Because, as we have already learned, sin is a corrosive agent that destroys anything it touches.  However, if through weakness we are overcome, take courage from these words of Jesus, recorded in John 6: 37, “I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me” (John 6: 37, The Good News).

Jesus never turned a deaf ear to Mary’s cry for help.  Instead He lifted her up out of a pit of despair.  And He kept doing it – even 7 times!

In his book, The Road to Daybreak, Henri Nouwen writes so poignantly about the relationship Jesus had with Mary.  Especially at the end of His life on earth when He came to a garden to meet for one last time with this precious woman whom He had repeatedly delivered from the power of evil.  Here’s how the scene of Jesus coming to the garden to meet Mary is described:

“When Jesus calls Mary by her name, he is doing much more than speaking the words by which everybody knows her, for her name signifies her whole being. Jesus knows Mary of Magdala. He knows her story, her sin and her virtue, her fears and her love, her anguish and her hope. He knows every part of her heart.  Nothing in her is hidden from him. He knows her even more deeply and profoundly that she knows herself.  Therefore, when he utters her name he brings about a profound event. Mary suddenly realizes that the one who truly knows her truly loves her…

I can see what a healing moment this encounter must have been. Mary feels at once fully known and fully loved. The division between what she feels safe to show and what she does not dare to reveal no longer exists. She is fully seen and she knows that the eyes that see her are the eyes of forgiveness, mercy, love, and unconditional acceptance.”

Isn’t that wonderful? And isn’t it just like the Son of God, the reflector of our Heavenly Father, to show us how God treats us when we repeatedly fall. He forgives, shows mercy and love, and “unconditional acceptance.”  In the words of Patrick, the ‘Apostle of the Irish,’ “I was like a stone lying deep in mud but God that is mighty lifted me on top of the wall.”

There is Nothing That Cannot Be Redeemed

“No one can put together what has crumbled into dust,
but you can restore a conscience turned to ashes;
you can restore to its former beauty a soul lost and without hope.
With you there is nothing that cannot be redeemed;
you are love, you are Creator and Redeemer;
we praise you singing: Alleluia.”
Gregory Petrov

AFFIRMATIONS

“Precious in God’s sight you are,
divinely made in God’s delight,
endowed with beauty woven deep within,
brighter than the darkest sin.

Wondrous in God’s sight you are,
though fallen deep, though fallen far,
still full-graced to reach the stars,
to break all chains and burst all bars.

Beloved in God’s sight you are,
whose laser vision probes the years,
who knows the pain, the lonely fears,
and weeps before your hidden tears.

Claimed in God’s sight you are,
who jealously formed you of His seed.
None can claim your special place
or rob you of your given grace.

Free in God’s sight you are,
to rise in rainbow’d glory,
to claim the God-light in your soul
and tell the world your story.

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S.  My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.

Reminder, the book, The Man Who Loved Women, is available at a substantial discount at www.Amazon.com. Thanks to all of you who have shared the book by giving it to someone as a gift.

 

July 23 Transformation Garden

“All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory.  People are made right with God by His grace, which is a free gift.”  Romans 3:23, 24  The Everyday Bible

EXPLORATION

“How God treats “high and mighty” sinners.”

“Now there was a certain man among the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler, a leader, an authority among the Jews.”
John 3: 1
The Amplified Bible

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” – C.S. Lewis

If I had lived when Jesus was on earth, would I have had the faith to “believe” He was who He said He was–“the Son of God?”

“Believe” – To accept as true and real.  To have confidence in the truth, value, and existence of someone.

INSPIRATION

“If to believe in Jesus was (woman’s) first duty, not to believe in Him was (woman’s) chief sin.”
John Stott

He was an honored ruler.  A respected man.  Looked upon with admiration by the ruling body of the Jews – the Sanhedrin.  As a Pharisee, it is likely Nicodemus was highly educated and had wealth to spare.

When we first meet him, he had requested a meeting with Jesus – an appointment. But there was one catch. This wasn’t to be a visit during working hours. Nor was Jesus to show-up at Nicodemus’ place of business. This powerful and wealthy man requested a meeting by night in a secret location. In the book of John we are told this Pharisee came to Jesus at night with this well-thought-out opening statement: “Rabbi, we know and are certain that You have come from God as a Teacher; for no one can do these signs (these wonderworks, these miracles – and produce the proofs) that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3: 1-2, Amplified).

Let’s take a break here to look at a couple of interesting details in this story. First, Nicodemus obviously didn’t want his buddies on the Sanhedrin aware that he knew Jesus and had an interest in Him, let alone that he had asked for an audience with Jesus. It would have been easy for Jesus to say to Nicodemus, this “high and mighty ruler,” “Come to one of My teaching sessions. Jesus could easily have said, “Nicodemus, you know where to find Me in the day. If you don’t want to be seen with Me, perhaps you need to rethink visiting Me.” But this isn’t how Jesus treats sinners. He’ll go anywhere – anytime – anyplace to bring back one of His lost kids. And in the case of Nicodemus, if it meant going out to some secret location late at night, fine with Jesus. The Son of God wasn’t too proud to meet a haughty human under the cover of darkness in an out-of-the-way location. But there’s even more.

When Nicodemus began his introductory speech to Jesus, if he thought his words would flatter Jesus, he really didn’t know who he was dealing with. First of all Nicodemus called Jesus, “Rabbi,” a term of respect.  Good boy!  Nice way to pick up a few brownie points. Then he made a big boo-boo. Nicodemus said, “You have come from God as a teacher!” Why? Nicodemus continued, “It’s because of Your wonderworks, these miracles.” Nicodemus was treating Jesus as though He were some circus act that had just ridden into town to entertain unbelieving hearts like his. Jesus was a big, beautiful magic act that had caught the eye of this rich and powerful person. To Nicodemus, Jesus wasn’t “God with us” who came to earth to redeem unbelieving hearts because He is our Saviour, our only hope!  In his own words Nicodemus told Jesus that “God must be with Him.” No admission that You are God’s Son. No belief from this unbeliever.

So what did Jesus do? Walk away? Kick the dust off His sandals? No! Jesus reached into this high and mighty, unbelievers’ world and laid out a simple message, so direct and so honest that like an arrow of steel, it pierced the shield that Nicodemus had built around his heart.

While we focus on the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” it is a few verses later when Jesus confronts this intelligent, learned man with a simple message, so often presented to unbelieving hearts. For it was to Nicodemus, the high and mighty, that Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” (John 3: 16, K.J.V.).  Jesus looked at Nicodemus, and said, “Don’t flatter me by calling me, Rabbi.  I am who I am –the Son of God.”  It was the plain truth an unbelieving man needed to hear. It is the only truth that saves the lowly and poor as well as the rich and mighty. And it was this truth that melted the heart of a Jewish Pharisee and led him to Golgotha’s Hill on a Friday afternoon “bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes” and with hands of love, helped his friend, Joseph of Arimethea, remove the body of His beloved Teacher, now His beloved Saviour, to the grave that held the body of the Man who boldly confronted Nicodemus’ unbelief with the truth.

“Belief is a wise wager.  Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false…If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that God exists.”
Blaise Pascal

AFFIRMATIONS

This past weekend, I was talking with someone whom I have known for many years. He has a brilliant mind.  A thoughtful mind. A questioning mind. Respected in his field of expertise, he is admired and lauded. Perhaps too much for his own good, for he has never been able to accept that someone as “common and lowly as Jesus” could be who He said He was. However, this gentleman, who as we spoke, admitted that because of his age and health is feeling his own mortality, began to give me the tiniest hint that somewhere, someway, he may be pondering the thought that holding onto a belief in Jesus in the face of impending death may not be the worst thing in this world for a skeptic to do.

This is why I have chosen for our affirmation today a thought-provoking poem written by author Kathy Galloway who is a member of the Iona Community in Scotland. In the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, George Bernard writes: “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.” I invite you to think about this favorite hymn as you read the following poem.

Clinging to the Cross

“When you’re in the sea
and it’s very dark
and very stormy
and very cold
and actually you think you’re drowning
and you’re very scared
and you see a piece of wood
drifting by in the middle distance
You don’t hang around to ask questions
or to speculate about how it got there
and why
and who sent it.
You just swim as hard as you can towards it
and you grab it
and cling on for dear life.

In the back of your mind you know
it’s not a boat
and it will not give you
either direction
or control.
You’re still at the mercy of the flood tide
and whether you like it or not
you’re going where it takes you.
But to be honest
You don’t care.
You just want not to drown
and the wood offers hope
support
a bit of respite for your aching arms and back
a feeling of not being completely abandoned
something solid to hold on to in the
midst of all this insubstantial water and dark and wind
and stop you panicking.
A way to give yourself up to the sea.

I haven’t reached dry land yet
but I’m in sight of the shore.
The piece of wood is still with me
and it’s funny
but I’ve got to kind of like being
in the water.

Of course, it’s easier to say that
when you can see land!”

Kathy Galloway

Talking to the Bones

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S.  My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $8.00. Or by calling Transformation Garden at 1-888-397-4348.