"Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
1 Peter 1:8-9 (KJV)
Reaping The Harvest: An In-depth Look at Kanye West’s Sunday Service
This thanksgiving as I was gathered around with family, I couldn’t help but overhear to the proud family cooks talking about how grateful they were that everyone loved their cooking so much, but slightly upset that they didn’t get to keep any themselves after others gathered takeout plates. I couldn’t help but to think about how the art of good cooking (southern cooking especially) has been almost been lost with the generations before. People crave genuinely home cooked meals over the pre-prepared and processed food served at many restaurants today. Even the “sit down” places serve mostly factory processed ingredients in their “so-called” fresh dishes. The fake processed stuff just doesn’t do what our bodies need it to. They don’t provide the nutritional punch, but rather a punch to our slowing metabolisms. The only thing growing from all of this are the waist lines of America.
Just like in our food, people spiritually crave the genuine gospel whether that’s what they recognize it as or not. Where there is not a genuine experience with God, it is substituted. For some it may be some type of substance abuse, while for others it may be a more honorably viewed aspect of life such as religion, but regardless the presence of God in our life will be substituted if not present. Those who are tired of the same old routine church services or being beaten down by those who claim to be Christians don’t want what is fake. They don’t want plain tradition, religion, or judgmental attitudes; they want a genuine encounter with God. Before we can tell them how to act, dress, pray, or whatever else some Christians believe it is their duty to enforce upon the lost who don’t even know God yet, we must obey the Spirit and give the people what it is their soul desires, a genuine encounter with the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ.
After the death of Billy Graham and many great heavyweights of the faith recently, I began to think in my conscious that maybe God is either preparing the next generation for a great move or He has already chosen someone to be the next source of a great awakening in our country. My faith and God’s Word tells us that “He’s not done with us yet.” What I didn’t know is that God was doing quite a work in Kanye West. Yes, you heard that right, the rap artists that has won numerous awards and prided himself off his own abilities to make masterpieces in the music industry. As one can imagine, Christ-like behavior, demeanor, and language is not what the popular hip-hop artist is known for. However, after doing quite a bit of research into Kanye’s life for the past year and seeing some interviews of important people in Kanye’s life, it appears that Kanye has experienced a genuine conversion experience in Christ. He has not only recently produced a gospel album called “Jesus Is King,” but has begun a series of worship services in various cities called “Sunday Service” held in arenas and venues around the country.
I must admit, when I first heard Kanye West had a plan to introduce the gospel in a “music concert” sort of style or fashion, I was a little skeptical. My next thought was that he must be having another “moment.” As it turns out it was nothing of the sort, but rather a product of his newfound genuine faith in Christ. After Kanye’s conversion, he took a familiar path like many of us; however the circumstances were certainly a little different than your average new “babe in Christ.” After hearing Kanye’s testimony, it appears that after his conversion, he began connect with local pastor Adam Tyson. Although Pastor Tyson’s church is not the size of a typical mega-church in California, Kanye somehow connected with the pastor after randomly attending his church for a few weeks. Kanye even began flying Pastor Tyson out to his ranch in Wyoming after a few weeks of meetings and Bible study at the church when Kanye had to travel. It is at that ranch where God began birthing the dream of “Sunday Service” in Kanye. This “service” has not only been effective, it’s attracting a lot of attention outside of the Christian circles. While it is rather early in the series of the event to gather analytics and prove with numbers the impact that the service has, it is obvious that the Sunday Service has had a huge impact on people’s lives all around the world. Just looking in the comments of the archived services on YouTube, you will find comments like “since the day this record came out, my life has changed” and “I met God at this service.”
This article by Rolling Stone is an interview with Kanye’s Choir Director and talks about how Kanye’s vision grew into a reality from simple songs to massive events over a course of a few months:
Looking at it from God’s perspective, Kanye has the perfect platform for God to impact the world through. He has a following of millions all across the world (even though there have been radical statements and scandals that have turned some away from him in the past), he has some of the greatest live performance skills of anyone ever in the music industry, he’s been a producer for nearly his entire career, and he has the financial resources to do much of it without any resources being fronted to him. However, all these things can also be obstacles to someone who can’t handle such access to resources and popularity. The great thing is that Kanye has risen out of such an environment by the strength of God and although he has chased all of these idols in the past, he now seeks God above it all. This is an artist who I listened to as a young man while he blasphemed against God, calling himself the savior. He now not only claims Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he professes that his new purpose is to “serve and glorify Christ in all he does.” In one service Kanye even mentions how, “the devil had me chasing a golden statue (referring to music awards),” but now he chases God and the purpose that God has given him.
So, what is it about Sunday Service that works so well? Well, remember what I said about the people thirsting for a genuine gospel? This is what I was talking about! A recent convert, fresh off a year-long growing process in the Lord, fired up by a dream planted by God with all the resources needed to share the gospel through the methods that the enemy once used him for being genuine with the people. That is what works folks. Billy Graham wasn’t just effective because he was a good preacher (I actually believe my local pastor may be more gifted in that aspect), but Billy Graham was a genuine believer who was on fire for God and was given the tools necessary to share it with the masses. He knew how to connect with the everyday people of American and Kanye knows how to not only connect with much of the world, but especially the younger generations of America.
Sunday Service doesn’t do away with traditional Christian songs or even many of the traditional church methods of having service. The service still utilizes a choir, sing old gospel hymns, and include preacher giving the gospel message. What it does incorporate however are the smooth music production skills of Kanye and other professionals God has placed in his life, along with keeping the basics of the gospel intact throughout the entire theme of the service. At points throughout the service you may hear the testimony of Kanye himself and many other subtle elements that are effective at delivering the gospel message. Even the worship music crosses over cultural boundaries. I may be no musician, but I know good worship music that helps me connect with God when I hear it. During the first Sunday Service, the worship songs varied from traditional black gospel to hymns and included added flavors of genres such hip-hop, reggae, and many others. While this may certainly be outside the boundaries for many who are used to the “traditional” ways of worship and doing things, we also realize that these services aren’t mostly geared towards seasoned believers, but the world who will be reached by Kanye’s methods. While many in the church may have spiritually grown past being attracted to this type of service, remember that every ministry has its own culture. Kanye’s culture in this season of his walk will be one of attracting the lost into a genuine encounter with God.
When God does a work in someone like Kanye, it does awesome things to the confidence and faith of a whole generation. What our nation and the entire world frankly needs is a movement of God sourced in the youth framework of this country. When great revivals come about in the young generations, the movement has an impact not just for today, but for generations to come. While the world may be changing (and not always for the good), God is doing great things among the spiritual warfare brewing all around us. Psalm 27:3 tells us, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”
Let us not continually discount and dismiss the work God is doing in Kanye, but let us celebrate what the Lord has done. Even if Mr. West is lead by the wayside tomorrow, the work that has already been done through the dream that God has manifested through the hands of this man, will continue to have a spiritual impact for generations to come. Let us learn a lesson to take back to our own local ministries in that genuine faith, genuine love, and getting back to the basics of Christ is what the people need and are seeking. Big conversions like Kanye’s surely won’t stop today, as he isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last. The question is, with the mighty army of servants that God has prepared in these last days plowing the fields and sowing the seeds, is the local church ready? Are we ready for the harvest God has for us at hand, or are we idly standing by waiting for rain, as the harvests pass us by? Let us not miss this opportunity due to closed-minded arrogance in our legalistic and selfish ways, but embrace what God is doing even in the most corrupt corners of our society. Isn’t that just like Jesus? From the penthouse to the whore house, God is doing a work in us!
Here are some archived videos from the previously recorded Sunday Services:
David (God’s Molded King)
1 Samuel 17 New King James Version (NKJV)
Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines. 3 The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.
And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was [a]armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. 7 Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him. 8 Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
12 Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had gone to follow Saul to the battle. The names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. And the three oldest followed Saul. 15 But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
16 And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening.
17 Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. 18 And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” 19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
20 So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. 21 For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. 22 And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. 23 Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. 24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 25 So the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.”
26 Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
27 And the people answered him in this manner, saying, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”
28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”
29 And David said, “What have I done now? Is[b] there not a cause?” 30 Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did.
31 Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. 32 Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”
33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
38 So Saul clothed David with his [c]armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off.
40 Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. 41 So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. 42 And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained[d] him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. 43 So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”
45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
48 So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.
And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of [e]the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.
Some of us have found ourselves recently in a position of asking God, “what next Lord”?
Only to be given an answer that makes you question, “why me Lord”?
David found himself in this exact position many times. What he would often soon realize is that he was right where he needed to be in that moment of time for God to grow and mold him into the man that His people needed. He was being transformed from a lowly shepherd boy into a king and in those days, that took a huge transformation. One of those moments, just so happened to be while Israel was at war with the Philistines and lined up perfectly with God’s will for David.
David was sent to the battlefield for a simple task that day, which was to take lunch to some hungry brothers. In those days, armies depended heavily on the citizens of their people to help feed them. The Scripture tells us that Goliath had taunted Israel for 40 days (scriptural evidence of a period of transformation). Scripture often uses a period of 40 days or years to separate two time periods.
David came to the battlefield as a shepherd boy, but he emerged as “a man after God’s own heart.” David entered the battlefield as a boy in the eyes of Israelites, but was transformed into their soon warrior king that very day. The days to come for David would be difficult and sometimes nearly unbearable as he fled for his own life many days, until Saul’s selfishness, guilt, and jealousy soon brought him his own demise.
David may have already known that he was the warrior king in his heart, but the people had yet to be shown who David was. What was interesting is that even though David’s importance to the land was shown to the people that day, they still had no idea what David’s full-potential and his soon coming destiny would be. They now knew that David was a well-gifted warrior, but they had no idea that he would soon be their king.
Don’t expect people to always recognize who you know you are in God’s eyes. There is a strong possibility that they may not even recognize the real you inside, because you have yet to be revealed to them. So, the next time you mention your vision, dreams, goals, ambitions, or just something God has showed you and they don’t seem to believe you or catch the vision with you, don’t be surprised. They just haven’t been showed your true identity, true skills, true anointing, or true abilities yet.
The people didn’t know that God had been working on David since the day Samuel anointed him as the future king. They didn’t know that David had been spending some time around the throne, not only playing his music on the harp, but also growing in his understanding of the position he was serving.
The people had not seen where God was preparing David not just intellectually, but physically for the role he was about to assume. They were not there when David slaughtered a bear and ripped a sheep from it’s mouth. They weren’t there when David killed a lion with his bare hands. However, the most important members of the military were there when David killed the giant who no one else dared to stand against in a time of war against their God and nation. What God knew and David would soon realize is that it would take the loyalty and love of not just Jonathan, but every rank of the military in order to become King and have a successful reign. God was preparing David and aligning his destiny. God has a plan for you, on his time, not ours.
You may be going through situations, you may not be slaughtering the bears and lions of this world with bare hands, but you may be fighting the wild beasts and demonic spirits of this world coming against your family, your livelihood, your future.
God may have placed a vision, a dream, and destiny in your heart and now you been through some training, through some trials and you are tired. You may be weary in body and heart, but don’t give up! Understand that God has been preparing you for this very moment in time. He has been preparing you for your future, not the grave. Perhaps you have entered a place, where like David, you are finding yourself in the hiding places, distraught, and in a difficult position to think much about a future.
So, what do we do when we are facing the Goliath (giant) of life when there seems to be little hope for the future? We must fight unbelief with what God has promised us and prepared us for.
So what if you are weary, tired, older, younger, poor, not well spoken or any other excuse.
Acts 2:17 tells us, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams”— I remember Jentezen Franklin once saying, “ it takes young men’s visions to achieve old men’s dreams.
Wherever you are in life, business, ministry, or any area in life, God has something more for you! Don’t worry about the dreams God has given you being to grand or big for your age, God will work it out!
However, to achieve the goal or vision, you have to go through the process of preparation. The process will not be easy and will always come at a price. The bigger the end result, the harder the process. Just look at all David had to do to get where he was taken. Killing a bear and lion with his hands was no feat, but then to also face a giant with a sling shot had to be quite a challenge. However, David was not afraid of the process and he embraced the preparation.
We know that David was prepared because we see the confidence that he had in the abilities that God had given him. We see the situations that David recalls prior to going into that battle. We see that David picks up not one, but five stones because he knows if he misses or requires another shot at Goliaths big head, he has another round waiting to go. We have to be the same way in our preparation and training. We have to have faith and strength in the process. We must be prepared when our number is finally called and God gives us a test. How many battles with Goliath have we missed because we were not prepared? How many blessings from God have passed us by because of our disobedience?
David could have gotten frustrated with the preparation and process, but instead he stayed the course and achieved great things because of his love for the lord, faith, and obedience.
If you find yourself in the process today, stay the course and allow God to mold you into who He needs you to be. The day that David struck down Goliath, the mighty Philistine warrior, he won the hearts and minds of the very force that would allow him to be escorted straight to the throne. God is trying to align your life today in the same way, to be positioned for greatness and what He has in store for you.
Our Road to Damascus
Acts 9 King James Version (KJV)
9 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
The other day as I was driving to work, I took an alternate route instead of the fastest and easiest way. It wasn’t because I planned to or even wanted to, but simply because I was fixated on beating the green light ahead in the direction I often go in order to get to another side of town. In essence, I took the route because I wasn’t focused. Instead of taking the bypass and going through few stop signs and lights on my ten minute commute, I turned it into a fifteen minute stop and go fiasco of bobbing and weaving. Doing my own thing and not paying attention cost me that night as I was already in a rush to get to work. Did I worry about it? No, and it may have even been a divine intervention to help me avoid a catastrophe. The odds are however, I simply went that way because I made it more about beating that light than turning off on the bypass where I was supposed to go. I was busy and in a hurry for no reason and it cost me a mistake.
What I find interesting here is that Saul was doing nothing out of the ordinary for himself in Acts 9. His actions of “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” was nothing he had not done enough to at least be comfortable with by now. The difference this time however, is what happened on the route that changed him. The other night, I went through a ton of stop signs, traffic lights, and even traffic itself. Who’s fault was it? My own of course. Was it life shattering? No, but it did teach me a very practical lesson. Somewhere along the way in life, many of us get like Saul in Acts 9. We may not be persecuting Christians or anyone for that matter, but we get stuck in a habit of doing what we always done, many times the way we want to do it! However, what we always done may not be pleasing or honoring the Lord. Our direction, our journey, our methods, or even our destination may not be a part of the Lord’s will for our life. This is where God steps in with our road to Damascus moment.
When we encounter a life changing moment via the Lord intervening, everything we are familiar with comes to a stop. Everything and everyone honors the presence of God, so much so that if He intervenes in your life with His presence, even life itself is put on hold. He doesn’t care if it is inconvenient, difficult, or even places a burden on your ability to make a living. For those of you not stubborn enough to have ever encountered a road to Damascus experience, good for you! I am unfortunately, not one of those people. Although I love and appreciate God, I have also been stubborn in my ways at times and wanted to do things my way and on my timeline. God does not operate under this type of control however, and has had to correct me multiple times.
As Christians, we often judge Saul, soon to be Paul in this situation. We sit back and think, “man was he messed up.” He persecuted, killed, tortured those who loved Jesus, the very son of the God who Saul claimed to serve. The challenge is this however, think about it from Saul’s perspective in this moment. Are we all really that different from being a modern day Saul in some aspects? Given the culture and context of his day, Saul happened to be a very zealous, educated, prepared, and socially influenced young person of his day. How many young ministers have you met like this in the past? I know I could count myself among those in my early days of ministry. Many of us knew that we were called, but we were also very influenced by our culture in which we immersed ourselves or grew up in. Many young ministers have more education and schooling than their predecessors, and many are very zealous due to age, energy, and motivation. See, Saul thought he was doing the right thing. That is where many Christians are today, doing what they believe to be right. The issue is however, is it what God desires? Are we doing what God has willed for us to do? Are we chasing His aspirations and will, or focused mostly on our own. I believe that if Saul had stopped, taken time with the Lord, and truly dedicated himself to God’s will, his road to Damascus would have been eliminated because he would have already been converted. The problem with Saul however, is the same issue that many of us have. We are so use to the routine of doing things our way instead of Gods way, that we are far too busy to even stop to realize it. I don’t believe that God wants to have to chastise us with a dramatic life experience such as this one, but like me rushing towards that stop light, we are doing what is familiar and appeals to the flesh. What we don’t realize however is how hard we are truly “kicking against the pricks.” That stubbornness will only dig us a deeper hole to climb out of.
So, I encourage you today, take some time with the Lord. For change, stop doing the talking and hear Him out. Let him know that you wish the desires of your heart to be His desires for your life. Let Him know that you are listening. Don’t make Him have to dramatically intervene to get you to listen. If you’re already a child of God, we should already be listening. Follow the journey that God has laid before you today in obedience.
Zacchaeus, the Story of Promise and Leadership
Luke 19:1-10 (KJV)
19 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
When we observe a story like that of Zacchaeus, we often think about how a small man longed to see Jesus and what he was about. What is rarely discussed is the part about the actual tree. How did it get there? Why was it there? Was the help it gave that day its ultimate purpose? Another specific question comes to my mind. The question of, what does this tree represent and what does it mean for us today?
Zacchaeus may have been a man of short stature, but he was surely not a tiny part of his community. The text tells us that he was “chief among the publicans,” so he wasn’t just any tax collector, but rather the chief tax collector. He was the equivalent of our commissioner of the IRS today here in America. Zacchaeus had managed to essentially climb the government ladder despite his short stature, so he was surely used to climbing in the first place.
Due to the fact that Zacchaeus was short, he had to find a way to see Jesus and examine Him. He had to see the man that everyone talked so much about and loved. Zacchaeus found the sycamore tree, climbed it, and accomplished just what he set out to do. Not only did he accomplish his goal, but Jesus spotted him in the tree amongst the crowd and demanded He stay at Zacchaeus’ house. That was quite a rapid progression of events within a short period of time and seemingly pretty aggressive on Jesus’ part.
We hear no more about the tree for the rest of the text and very little about Zacchaeus. While most tend to focus more on the story of Zacchaeus and how Christ offered him salvation because of his faith, I like to dive into the details of biblical accounts and find the not so visible gems within the text. We know that the “sycamore tree” as the text tells us that it, is a native tree species to Jericho. It is still used for cultivation for its figs and other uses, growing up to 20 meters tall. This tree would have surely been large enough for Zacchaeus to achieve his goal.
What is striking about this whole situation is that long before Zacchaeus would have been chief tax collector and most likely before he was ever born, God knew that having this tree at the right place, at the right time, and at the right height would be necessary for Zacchaeus to receive his salvation. There in the midst of the story God is sending us a message about His promises to provide for us. As He provides for the sparrow (Matthew 6:26), He promises to provide for us. Even when it requires planning ahead years before we were in our mother’s womb, God knows our every need.
If that weren’t enough that God’s promise is represented here for providing our every need, there is a message tucked well within the text of this story. That is, the story of the tree itself and how it relates to Zacchaeus. See, Zacchaeus was a powerful man who had achieved a high level of rank, but his methods of obtaining this level were most likely corrupt and modeled according to the world’s idea of promotion. He was a man of power in the Kingdom of Rome, but not the Kingdom of God. The striking contrast in the biblical leadership model of God and that of the world can be found in the tree.
Like the speed at which it is often obtained, worldly given leadership is often very unstable. One minute you can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the next you can find yourself in the unemployment line. However, when we follow God’s plans for promotion, the path is often hard and long. This type of leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience and enduring. Much like the requirement for this type of tree needing the assistance of a certain type of wasp to be a host for its seeds to travel, this type of leadership also requires the assistance of some God given discipleship to take us places we have never been before. It is only after a long process of hosting, planting, watering, and growth that this tree is able to produce and serve its purpose. Like that tree, we must continually mature in our faith and leadership daily.
The last and final hidden message that I wish to acknowledge is that of humility. Going with the ironies found within this story, I find it also ironic the small stature of Zacchaeus himself compared to that of his standing or stature in the community. In order to see Zacchaeus had to climb up in a tree, placing himself physically over the crowd. In a total story of irony, Jesus notices his placement both physically and socially, calling him out. Jesus did not shy away from Zacchaeus even though He already knew of his background. Instead of being afraid of a man with such political stature, Jesus reached up to Zacchaeus right where he was above the crowd and called him down. Even when our pride and sin has fooled our minds into thinking we are high above the reasoning of God, Christ often reaches out to us in our high places. Knowing Him, places our feet back on the ground of truth and provides us that solid foundation where we can’t be knocked down from our high places built on pride. Zacchaeus may have climbed the tree that day a leader of the world’s men and having the foundation of sin, but he descended from that tree on a path to a position of leadership in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven and having set his foundation on the solid rock of Jesus Christ!
A Storm On The Horizon
A few weeks ago, I had a dream that awoke me from my sleep for the rest of that day. I don’t normally get up at 5 a.m. on my day off, but this dream was different than all the rest. I can still see the debris in the air flying around, the twister ripping up the gravel off the ground, and the people running with fear. I am watching what seems to be people I was familiar with, but at the same time could not remember or recognize any faces. It was as if I knew them, but the exact identity was concealed. It had to have been some family, friends, and their close friends and family all running for dear life. This was all in what seemed to be HD, 1080p, or maybe 4k ultra, so it was as clear as one could imagine any image being.
As everyone who was afraid ran for their dear life, this storm seemed to destroy the surroundings. Nothing was left standing, and no person who was lost to this storm was seen again in this dream. This storm was literally consuming everything and everyone in its path. At first, I did not understand why it seemed to not affect me as I was thinking I was there in the moment, however I noticed that I was not actually there in body, just in spirit. I realized quickly that this storm represented the world and its corruption, followed by God’s swift judgment. It is time to heed the warnings of the Lord. The time is near when the trumpet will sound and God’s children will be called up in the “twinkling of an eye.” There isn’t much time and this could happen at any moment, perhaps before this recording has ended. When this calling up takes place, everyone who believes in the Lord shall be called up to be with Him, however those who do not will be left behind.
What follows the rapture is surely judgment. If you do not believe me, just check out what Revelation 6 has to say about this judgment. It will not be an easy thing to witness and surely not to live through. Those who survive (although unlikely) will suffer if they come to faith during this time period. Waiting to serve the Lord isn’t a realistic option. If we refuse to make this commitment now due to laziness, do we really believe we will make such a commitment when our lives are on the line?
You know a nation is in decline and judgement is near depending upon the level of violence present and the amount culture instability. We must separate ourselves from this instability and find our refuge in the rock of ages. The waves of society no matter how hard they beat against the shore can’t move the Rock! If we are rooted and grounded in the Lord, we shall not be moved!
Psalm 62:6 (KJV)
He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
The leaders within the nations of today should understand this warning from God!
Nahum 3:1 (NLT)
What sorrow awaits Nineveh,
the city of murder and lies!
She is crammed with wealth
and is never without victims.
Ezekiel 22 New King James Version (NKJV)
Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Now, son of man, will you judge, will you judge the bloody city? Yes, show her all her abominations! 3 Then say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “The city sheds blood in her own midst, that her time may come; and she makes idols within herself to defile herself. 4 You have become guilty by the blood which you have shed, and have defiled yourself with the idols which you have made. You have caused your days to draw near, and have come to the end of your years; therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all countries. 5 Those near and those far from you will mock you as [a]infamous and full of tumult.
6 “Look, the princes of Israel: each one has used his [b]power to shed blood in you. 7 In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the [c]fatherless and the widow. 8 You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths. 9 In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed; in you are those who eat on the mountains; in your midst they commit lewdness. 10 In you men uncover their fathers’ nakedness; in you they violate women who are set apart during their impurity. 11 One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in you violates his sister, his father’s daughter. 12 In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord God.
13 “Behold, therefore, I beat My fists at the dishonest profit which you have made, and at the bloodshed which has been in your midst. 14 Can your heart endure, or can your hands remain strong, in the days when I shall deal with you? I, the Lord, have spoken, and will do it. 15 I will scatter you among the nations, disperse you throughout the countries, and remove your filthiness completely from you. 16 You shall defile yourself in the sight of the nations; then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”
17 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; they are all bronze, tin, iron, and lead, in the midst of a furnace; they have become dross from silver. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. 21 Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. 22 As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out My fury on you.’ ”
And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 24 “Son of man, say to her: ‘You are a land that is not [d]cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.’ 25 The conspiracy of her [e]prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured [f]people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have [g]violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy [h]people, and to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.
Luke 21:25-28 (NKJV)
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
What surprises me about the storm however is its timing prior to God’s return. This storm is clearly cleansing the Earth of all things and individuals considered unclean. The corruption of the world is literally being swept up just before my eyes. I can think of no better comparison than the established authorities of many of today’s ruling countries. America, Europe, Russia, China, and many others, your corruption causes judgment to come against you! “Vengeance is mine” says the Lord. He will not allow his people to continue to suffer under the abuse of authority without restitution! While 2018 was a year of restoration as it was prophesied in many congregations around the world, 2019 shall be the year of increase. Some of that increase will be taken out of the hands of those who have taken it without authority and placed into the hands of those children of God that it rightfully belongs.
Isaiah 61:7 (KJV)
For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
Nahum 1:7 (NKJV)
The Lord is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.