THIS

Today’s reading is Luke 17 and Psalm 65.

Luke 17 contains messages around temptation to sin, increasing faith, unworthy servants, and the coming of the Kingdom of God, but we will focus our time on the story of Jesus helping 10 lepers from Luke 17:11-19.

In this story, Jesus heals 10 lepers when they yell and ask for help from a distance, but only 1 comes back to thank and praise him. At first read, it’s easy to be judgmental, and think “how could they not come back and say thanks!?” It’s also easy to condemn members of the crowd yelling “Crucify Him!” when he’s on trial with Pilot.  After reflection, I realize when I take Jesus name in vain it’s just the same as someone yelling these words. When I don’t thank Him for answered prayers or completely forget about it a few days later, am I any different than the 9 lepers who didn’t come back to show their gratitude? It’s so easy to quickly forget about the answered prayer for a negative test for cancer, a successful surgery, a new job, retention of your job amidst downsizing, a new home, or a significant other you’ve been asking God for. How quickly do we forget these things!  I’m guilty of forgetting these things within days, hours, and even minutes! What about the answered prayers we don’t even realize occurred? For example, we pray for safety and then get really upset when spill coffee on the way to work and have to go back home in anger to change clothes causing us to be late to our first meeting. We had no idea this situation kept us from getting into a car accident.

Our leadership team, thanks to my brother in Christ Josh Waite’s idea, starts our weekly meetings by “going B.I.G.” That stands for “Begin In Gratitude.” We reflect and tell everyone one thing we are thankful for. When you focus on what you are thankful to God for, the stress and problems are minimalized. I’ve heard it said you can’t feel stress and anxiety at the same time. When we focus on and thank God for what we have and what He’s given us, we don’t get stressed and mad about what we don’t have.

Some might ask how they are supposed to be thankful when they just lost their job or a loved one? Well…it’s hard. But, maybe this will help you find your true calling or give you an opportunity to move closer to, or spend more time with, family. How about giving praise that you had that loved one in your life for the amount of time you did or even at all for that matter? When you praise God when things are good and when they don’t seem to be good, it changes your whole perspective and happiness. You see the world through an entirely different lens. Psalm 65 highlights offering praises as well.

As we go into next week, let’s go “B.I.G!” Let’s remember, thank, and praise Him for the big answered prayers we asked for, for the ones we don’t realize were answered, and for the things we didn’t even request. He gave it all to us. Most importantly, let’s thank him for sending his Son Jesus to take the punishment that should have been ours on the cross. For that, we should always and forever be thankful to Him for the opportunity He gave us to become one with Him and have eternal life! He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Thank God for all I missed because it lead me here to This…”

Have you tasted that the Lord is good?

This week I witnessed a man recording a video of the beautiful green hills and the Bahía de Banderas (Spanish for “Bay of Flags”) in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It is a gorgeous area and we’ve been staring at it all week. As the man was recording, he said “it would be hard to not believe in God after seeing this view; this is God’s backyard, right here”. The funny thing was about 15 seconds after he said this, the same audio statement played loudly through a portable Bluetooth speaker near the pool for all to hear (I think this was accidental). I was pretty sure right then that his statement would make its way into my next Bible Journal post.

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

Over the last few days I’ve thought about the “God’s backyard” phrase a lot. Amy and I ended up meeting the man who made this statement (Chris) and most of his group which consists of eighteen of Chris’ family members; all of whom are exceptional, kind, and fun humans.

I’m thankful for people who see God’s beauty and attribute it to him; to me this is a reflection of one who tastes that the Lord is good. When we speak of his beauty and goodness, it is glorifying to him, and that puts us in line with our creator who made us to glorify him, and to point others to him. With this theme as well as this week being Thanksgiving in the United States, I’ve spent a few minutes thinking through my own current “thankful for” list…

pv-sunriseSunrises, sunsets, kids giggling, sight, the sound of water making its way through rocks, changes in seasons, changes in temperature, the smell of the air that signifies rain is coming, light breezes, the multitude of creatures that roam this earth in so many ways; flight, crawling, galloping, swimming, prancing, sprinting, steadily pacing. The fact that Earth is a perfect distance from the sun, our air has the right amount of oxygen. Our bodies consume food and water as sustaining energy. Coffee, pizza, tacos, rare beef, spices and recipes from around the world. India Pale Ales, carbonated water, crunchy potato chips, avocados, and salsa. Bicycles, good running shoes, flip flops, polarized sunglasses. Parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, teachers, and the warm feeling that goes with the word “family”, whether through genetic or the various human relationships. Those who have sacrificed their lives for our country as well as those who have given their lives to further the gospel; we’re all recipients of this in some way.

Live music, worship music, sermons that cut to the heart, pastors who recognize and act dutifully on their calling. People who are humble, generous, kind, and loving. People who give with no expectation of anything in return. People who listen well. Small families, big families, small churches, big churches, small cities, big cities. Intimacy, marriage, my wife, our children, relationships, communion, rest. For the man who returned Preston’s lost iPod.

preston-ice-creamFor the joy that ice cream and treats bring to children; for the ability to watch them enjoy such things. For the truth filters that we’re given; for the truth we receive from God Almighty. Thankful that somehow in my wandering I realized God’s ways are good, that he cannot tolerate sin, that he sent his son Jesus to atone for our sin. For the cleansing water of baptism. For the Bible as a complete work of divine literature as a guide for our daily lives. For the Holy Spirit who speaks to us and gives us words.

I’m Jon Harris and I have tasted that the Lord is GOOD!

1 Chronicles 21; 1 Peter 2; Jonah 4; Luke 9

The Tornado Effect

Life is uncertain. Some would say it’s a gift from God. And the closer I got to God, the more often unusual things seemed to happen. These statistical anomalies were also happening with greater frequency in the lives of other believers I knew.

I have come to believe that the kingdom of God is a real thing. It exists in the heavens and also in our midst, hidden from those who don’t have the “eyes to see” or “ears to hear.”  Each day it was revealed, and for some it became a new reality. Others glimpsed it’s truth, discovered its power and felt it’s JOY, only to have it snatched away, as Jesus shared in the parable of the sower.

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. -Matthew 13:18-21

About six weeks ago, we started having our twenty five year old home remodeled. Rooms were painted; new flooring put down; a new roof; and a new furnace and air conditioner. Despite the blessing of being able to repair and replace old failing systems and tired finishes, after a while, the process was starting to add stress to our lives. Furniture was piled up in a several rooms, making them unusable. The ones that were being worked on were also unusable, while dust settled everywhere, day in and day out. As the days turned into weeks, this chaos was increasingly hard to take. And while we knew this wasn’t a horrible problem, it was still frustrating. I needed the contractor to try to wrap things up, so Thursday morning I called.

“Jeff, I appreciate all the great work you guys have done, but we really need you to finish today if possible. Perhaps you don’t know what it’s like to have your house turned upside down!”

“I understand, but we’re probably not coming today. Did you hear about the tornado that touched down in Pontiac last night? Well it destroyed Danny’s home.”

It turns out that the trailer belonging to Jeff’s niece Rachel, and Danny (one of his assistants), was turned upside down (three times) and destroyed. Jeff and his other helper were going there today to help see what might be salvaged.”

“That’s crazy! Was anyone hurt?” I asked, not sure what to think.

He calmly shared the story, “Danny took his six year old son to get a blanket to put over Rachel, who was in the bathtub protecting their two year old, when tornado hit. They’re at the hospital now. Her pelvis is shattered and he broke or bruised a bunch of ribs and was cut up pretty bad. Fortunatly the kids are both fine, though a bit terrorized.”

“Wow” was all I could say. When I shared this story with my wife, she felt terrible too, not only for this young family, but because we had been impatient about the condition of our home. It had taken a near tragedy to re-gain a better perspective! And it was also in God’s grace, that Danny, as he lay in a field surrounded by the debris that was once his home, looking up at the stars in the heavens, saw his life in a new way.

“I haven’t been to church for a long time. I’m going now!” He told me the following Monday.

Amazingly, Danny and I shared transformation and gratitude in his tragedy, both in the grace of my God who was always calling, always teaching, and always present.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Danny and his family! Please grant us the strength and the power to put you above all other things in our lives. In the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Joshua 5–6:5; Psalms 132–134; Isaiah 65; Matthew 13