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

Jars of Clay

 

Young plant - "Ficus" in a broken flower pot
Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 11; 2 Corinthians 4; Ezekiel 18; Psalms 62–63

I was recently asked about what I do to stay motivated. I offered the stock answers, explaining how I spend time every morning studying and praying. I exercise and eat right (sometimes). I read a lot and am careful of how much sleep I get. Sounds like a 10-step plan, doesn’t it. In fact, you could get similar advice from any self-help book ever written. Don’t get me wrong, there is some truth in those answers. The problem with them is that they don’t get to the Truth.

The Truth is that no matter how much you exercise, eat right or study and pray, you are going to have hard days. Maybe not only days, but weeks, months and years! Our lives are, in fact, fragile. In every moment, we are vulnerable physically and mentally to the forces of nature, illness, economics, character assassination, and defamation. The Apostle Paul calls us “jars of clay.” It is a fitting metaphor. You see, anything made of clay is rigid and strong enough to contain precious things. Even so, it is brittle and fragile. It reminds me of our clay flower pots.  When that clay pot makes sharp contact with the corner of your table or the wind blows it over onto your concrete patio, watch out! We encounter these same dangers in our everyday lives. So, if we are so fragile, how is it that we are to live fearlessly?   How will we stay motivated to press on?

The answer those questions lie in your “big why.” I learned about this from the founder of Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller. He writes, “The Big Why is about having a purpose, a mission, or a need, that in turn gives you focus. High achievers always have a Big Why powering their actions.” This statement is spot on. In fact, we can look throughout history and see where many people put their very lives on the line to achieve their singular purpose. To illustrate this further, I could cite men like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. No person stands out to me more than the Apostle Paul. He endured one painful day after another. Amazingly, Paul didn’t just endure the suffering of his life he thrived in it. So, how did Paul stay motivated? Simple, he had a really big why.

as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. (2 Corinthians 4:15, NLT)

That’s it! Paul was so enamored with God that he became laser focused on Him. His sole purpose, his Big Why, in this life was to “reach more and more people so that there would be great thanksgiving and God would receive more and more glory.” Wow! I am immediately and deeply humbled by the purity and righteousness of Paul’s motives. Truly, I want to be “sold out” like that. I want to be fully aware that the dangers to my “earthen vessel” are nothing. As Paul says, “our present troubles are small and will not last very long.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT) That mindset is only possible when we “fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT). When we do, God will remove the cares of our temporary, earthly minds and bodies, replacing them with His “surpassing power,” (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV) which becomes our motivation. What is your Big Why?

Works Cited:
Keller, Gary; Jenks, Dave; Jay Papasan; Gary Keller; Dave Jenks; Jay Papasan (2004-03-11). The Millionaire Real Estate Agent (Kindle Location 1163). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

ACTS

Joshua 10; Psalms 142–143; Jeremiah 4; Matthew 18

Several years ago I had the life-changing honor and privilege to participate in a study called Discipleship Essentials, written by Greg Ogden. One of the many takeaways from that study was on a model for prayer (keyword “model”, not a “mandate” as there are many ways to pray) using what is referred to as an acrostic to help teach us to pray. The model is ACTS; Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. ACTS invigorated my prayer life over the years and has served as a reminder to make confession a regular part of prayer as it is often very tempting to skip right to the “bless me” or “save me” part.

The ACTS pattern popped out at me today through Psalm 143. Here’s how I saw it and a good example for our own prayer lives.

Adoration: In verse one, David opens up by addressing God as Lord; his ruler, humbling himself before him and asking him to listen. I read this as “You are God and I am not”; it sets the record straight. David specifically expresses adoration through referencing God as faithful and righteous.

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    give ear to my pleas for mercy!
    In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! (Psalm 143:1)

Confession: David is acknowledging that he is a sinner. We all are. No one living is righteous before him. It is very tempting to skip over this part of prayer because we all have sins and it hurts to confess, however God already knows our sins. Confession is telling God what he already knows. When I get to the confession part and nothing is immediately there to confess, I ask God to reveal my sins that I’ve forgotten or suppressed… and the floodgates open… talk about an answer to prayer…

Enter not into judgment with your servant,
   for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:2)

Thanksgiving: Reflecting on what God has done and expressing gratitude.

I remember the days of old;
  I meditate on all that you have done;
  I ponder the work of your hands. (Psalm 143:5)

Supplication: Asking God to meet your needs and the needs of others. In Psalm 143:7-12, David asks:

  1. For the Lord to answer him quickly.
  2. For God to not hide his face from him (or for God to be near and present).
  3. To hear of God’s steadfast love.
  4. For direction; the way he should go.
  5. For deliverance from his enemies; to be within God’s refuge.
  6. To be taught to do God’s will.
  7. To be led by the Spirit.
  8. For his life to be preserved for God’s glory.
  9. For his soul to be brought out of trouble (again, deliverance).

And finally David has faith that God will answer his prayer; that in His love he will cut off his enemies and destroy the adversaries of his soul. As we worship our God through prayer, we can trust he will take over; we should be faithful because he is faithful.