“I grew with parents who considered themselves too intellectual for Christianity,” Vicki Paxton shared with our Soul Shepherding TLC community of pastors and leaders. “They told me the Bible was outdated and irrelevant. It was full of silly stories about an angry god that wanted people to praise him all the time.”

But everything changed for Vicki when she went to a Pioneer Girl Program at a church nearby. There was a friendly husband and wife that led the group and a group of girls who also were happy to see her.

At “Circle Time” the man took out a Bible and Vicky got nervous. He turned to a story about Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). She recalls, “I was surprised to learn that Jesus was God’s Son and that God was just like Jesus. Where was the mean God I had been hearing about? Jesus was a kind and good man! And he was forgiving! He took the time to stop and look up into a tree to talk to this little man whom nobody else liked! He even went to the house of this small man who was a big thief!

“I could picture Zacchaeus jumping down out of the tree!” Vicki exclaimed. “He made Jesus happy when he promised to stop being a thief and pay back what he stole!”

The Look in Jesus’ Eyes

Then she wondered, “What was it about the way Jesus looked at Zacchaeus that made him bold enough to jump down from that tree? What did Zacchaeus see in the eyes of Jesus that made him believe he could become a good person?

“If Jesus could notice Zacchaeus in a tree… Maybe he could notice someone like me! I couldn’t stop thinking about Jesus!

“The next week this couple got my parents’ permission to take me on a picnic lunch. They pointed out the beauty in nature that was around us: the trees, the sky, the creek, and the birds. They told me that God made all those things. I remember feeling wonder again! God must be really cool if he made all of this beauty!

“Then they asked me if I knew what was the most beautiful, special thing God created?

“I had no idea!

“They looked at me with Jesus’ sparkling, kind eyes — the same eyes that saw Zacchaeus — and said, ‘You!’

“‘Me?!!’ I didn’t think I heard correctly.

“‘Yes,’ they laughed. Then they told me all about Jesus. I didn’t hesitate when they asked me if I wanted to pray to receive Jesus into my heart! I wanted to be with him forever and ever!”

Turn On Your Zacchaeus Radar

For many years now Vicki has been blessed to smile with Jesus’ eyes for other people — especially children, including serving as a children’s pastor. But even adults have a little child in their hearts that needs to be seen and befriended, like Jesus did for Zaccaheus. Vicki’s TLC training has equipped her to serve as a Soul Shepherd to other pastors and leaders, in private conversations, groups, and retreats that she leads.

You know, if Jesus hadn’t spotted Zacchaeus hiding in that tree and called him down he’d still be up there!

If you’re secretly hurting inside I hope you’ll jump out of your tree and into the arms of Jesus! And may God help all of us to develop Jesus’ eyes of love so that we turn on our “Zacchaeus radar” to spot the people around us who are in the trees and offer them the friendship and grace of Christ.

My Life Changing Zacchaeus Moment

When I was four-years old my Sunday School teacher got out a big bag of flannel graph felt objects and started sticking them onto the board. “Here’s Jesus,” she said. Then she got out a windy road and some people, “And he’s walking down this street. Look at all the people that crowd around him.”

The she got out a tree and another felt character. “This is Zacchaeus. Look at what a wee, little man he is! And he feels bad about himself because he stole some money. He wants to see Jesus, but he’s too short to see over the crowd and he feels like nobody likes him so he runs up into this sycamore tree and climbs high into the branches. See how he’s hiding up there? And how he pokes his head out to look at Jesus?”

I felt like wee, little Zacchaeus! I was a little girl, the youngest of three sisters and shorter than all my friends. I did bad things too. I was sensitive and often got my feelings hurt or felt alone and left out from the group.

“Jesus loves you too,” my teacher said. “He forgives you for the wrong things you’ve done and wants to be your friend.” (See Luke 19:1-10)

This was good news! I didn’t have to be tall, grown up, important, smart or perfect! That day I told my teacher that I trusted Jesus and wanted him to forgive me too! Many times in life when I’ve felt small or ashamed I have gone back to that story and given thanks to Christ for rescuing bad, wee, little me!

Come to Jesus as a Child

Vicki’s Pioneer Group leaders and my Sunday School teacher were spiritual parents to us — what a powerful ministry this is!

They show us the how Jesus cares for little children — and the adult child in all of us! We who take on lots of responsibility or are serious about dealing with problems and hurts especially need to come to Jesus as a child. We need to revisit children’s church in our hearts!

The Lord Jesus urges adults, “Come to me as a child — it’s the only way to receive the blessing of being part of God’s kingdom” (Luke 18:17, Bill’s paraphrase).

Or recall when the disciples tried to shoo away the parents and children because they seemed to think, “Jesus is too busy with important adult things.” Jesus rebukes them and turns to the children with a warm smile and opens his arms to hug and bless them! (Matt. 19:13-14)

Yes, Lord Jesus, like eager little children we open our hearts to embrace you now! We’ll skip and sing to follow you wherever you lead us. Help us to do our adult work and ministry with this happy, playful spirit. Amen.

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