Adoration and Thanksgiving

Today’s reading is Psalm 30.

Sometime in the last few years I was reminded of the acronym A.C.T.S. when it comes to prayer.

A –  Adoration

C –   Confession

T –   Thanksgiving

S –   Supplication

While I’ll admit my prayers should probably be more conversational with God, I do think this has really helped my prayer life by reminding me the things I should be talking with God about. All of us probably have a tendency to focus on 1 or 2 of these areas in prayer more than the others, and if I had to guess I would say it would probably be confession and supplication. Those are both really good things to talk with God about. We must recognize and confess that we are a sinner asking for forgiveness, and God tells us to ask for what we want in the Bible (Matthew 7:7-11). I think often times we are good about asking God about what we want for others but feel guilty asking God for what we want ourselves. However, God wants us to do so when we ask with the right intention. He wants our whole heart, and He knows He has it when we ask Him for what we want so there should be no guilt in that. With thanksgiving coming after confession in this format, it also reminds me to thank Him daily for His grace on the cross as I thank Him for other blessings.

Adoration is not a part of my prayers and conversation with God that comes as natural to me. However, this helps remind me daily that He is Alpha, Omega, Almighty, and Creator. What do all these names indicate? They indicate that He is in control….in a world that seems out of control. This has been extremely helpful..especially in the last year. I can imagine that during times like the Civil War, The Great Depression, World War I and World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War with protests people probably thought things couldn’t get any crazier and worse right?  Many likely even thought this was the end of our world and Jesus was coming….or maybe the end of the US as we know it at least. One could argue it’s worse now than then and that our country’s division and direction is also worse than it’s ever been. Is it? Maybe. But one thing is for certain, due to the internet and social media and a phone with both in our hands most all of time, we are constantly bombarded with negative information making it seem like the world can’t get any worse. Expectancy Theory says that which we focus on expands. It consumes our thoughts. As a result, the negative news we are exposed to 24/7 will cause us to focus and think even more about those negative things and even other bad things. Never has it been more important remind ourselves consistently that God is in control…He’s Alpha, Omega, Almighty, Creator, and whatever other of the many names God has that remind us of this. I believe that starting our prayers with this changes our conversation with God and our recognition of His provision and role in our lives and in the other parts of our prayer life.

As I read Psalm 30, what really jumped out to me was David’s adoration and thanksgiving to God. Remember Expectancy Theory…if we focus on adoration and thanksgiving to God in our prayer life…our positive thoughts that He is in control and gratitude for all He does will consume our mind and this peace will permeate through our lives changing the way we live drawing others to Jesus as well.

You have turned for me my 

mourning into dancing;

you have loosed my sackcloth

and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your

praise and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give

thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30:11-12

Finding Gratitude This Thanksgiving

Today’s reading on Thanksgiving is John 21.

Is it easy or difficult to have a grateful heart this Thanksgiving? For most reading this 2020 has been very challenging and for many downright heartbreaking. For others, it may have actually been a year of many blessings strangely enough. Whichever group you are in, or maybe neither or a combination of both, I pray this Thanksgiving we call find contentment and joy in the blessings we do have.

Our reading today gives us 4 examples of God providing exactly what was needed when it was needed..even if those involved didn’t realize it before or even after.

  1. The disciples went out to fish at night sometime in the days or weeks after Jesus crucifixion and Resurrection. They fished all night and hadn’t caught anything. Was catching fish needed for their next day’s meal because they were out of food or to sell for money because they had no more? What stress were they under? We don’t know for sure, but we do know they were likely feeling frustrated from catching nothing when Jesus showed up at just the right time before daybreak and told them from the shore to throw down their nets on the right side (John 21:6). When they listened and obeyed, they caught so many fish their nets tore….153 to be exact (John 21:11).
  2. While eating breakfast with Peter, Jesus asked Peter 3 different times if he loved Jesus. Peter affirmed he did all 3 times. What’s the significance of this? Three is the same number of times Peter denied he knew Jesus after His arrest. Jesus knew the significance of Peter saying he loved him the same number of times as he previously denied him. He knew 3 times would likely be needed to make Peter feel he was fully forgiven and redeemed…even though belief in Jesus was all that is needed to be forgiven.
  3. Jesus then told Peter the way he would die which was to be crucified upside down in John 21:18-19. You may be asking yourself how Peter being martyred was exactly what was needed. Well, we are also told in these verses this was necessary to glorify God. Through it God has some plan. What we want and what we think is needed is not actually what’s always needed for God’s glory. However, that’s why He made each one of us…for His glory..even if we don’t always like how He does it. This is hard…but we must figure out how to trust fully trust in this and His love for us no matter what.
  4. We learn in John 21:22-23 from Jesus that John would not be martyred. Most historians agree that John was the only disciple that was not killed due to his belief in Jesus. While Peter and the other disciples may have been thinking while facing death for their belief how horrible it was or how unlucky they were, John may have been sitting on the island of Patmos where He was exiled for his belief wishing he died and was in Heaven. Or maybe he was wondering if He was not worthy enough to be killed for his faith like the other disciples. It’s all about perspective. Whatever you are going through…there is likely someone that would absolutely love to be you or have your life right now as hard to believe as that may seem. Whatever you are going through…it’s necessary for God’s glory. We now know John’s long life and exile to Patmos was necessary to write the book of Revelation to complete the Bible and tell about God’s ultimate restoration of brining Heaven and Earth together some day when there will be no more pain, crying, or sin (Revelation 21:4).

We see through these 4 examples in John 21 how what happened and what was given was exactly what was needed at the right time for God’s glory. Whatever you are going through right now which might be really tough, I’m sorry. I pray you know Jesus faced pain, sorrow, and rejection in his life too…and ultimately suffered and died for you for the forgiveness of your sins. I pray you can find contentment and gratitude in your circumstances and through His grace this Thanksgiving…perhaps even joy.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Nobody But Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 10:1-11:18 as we focus on Cornelius.

The Bible tells us Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army meaning he commanded at least one hundred men and held an important social status. Despite his non-jewish, Gentile background, we are told in Acts 10:2 that he was devout, feared God, and gave alms or money to the poor and needy. Being a believer, Cornelius likely thought he was already being used by God for a purpose with his favorable position of power. However, we serve a big God who has bigger vision for each one of us and the people of this world than we can see. Cornelius is visited by an angel telling him to send a few of his men to get Peter who he’s never met and doesn’t know. Not coincidentally when Cornelius’ men show up, Peter just had a vision from God (Acts 10:9-15) telling him that the Gospel was available to all nations. Peter then went with Cornelius men to Caesara helping bring the Gospel through the Holy Spirit to them and all the Gentiles.

As I read these verses, I could not help but think of and look back on my notes from a sermon Pastor Mike Baker from Eastview Church did a few years ago on Genesis 12 where Abram is called to leave his country. Pastor Mike said, “Faith is not a ‘stay’…it’s always a ‘go.’” If you ‘stay,’ you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be. God doesn’t give us the details of the future even when we are in turmoil wanting to know His plans for two reasons. First, we would likely freak out if we knew everything that would happen. Second, we would try to take over and mess it up thinking we can do it better than God can. Cornelius could have just said, “Hey God..I’m doing good things here as a centurion. I’m giving to the needy and using my position for good, and I have 100 men here under me I can witness, too.” However, God called him for bigger things..to bring the Good News of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to all the Gentiles and letting them know that His forgiveness through the cross was available to all people and all nations (Acts 10:34-35, Acts 10:44-48 Acts 11:18). He called Cornelius to “go” and do bigger things, he obeyed, and look what happened.

Today, on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Cornelius, the Holy Spirit, and the big God we serve that is always working on our behalf.  Sadly, I don’t know much about my genealogy, but likely similar to many reading this, I don’t think I have any Jewish roots. I’m thankful that Cornelius obeyed God’s command so we non-Jews know that we are also one of God’s people through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can be thankful Romans 8:26-28 tells us the Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf and interceding (just like here to come to the Gentiles and make Jesus’ forgiveness available and known to everyone). Despite whatever challenges and changes in your life you may be going through today, you can be thankful that He working ALL things for His good. Be grateful you don’t know and can’t control the future because through His power within you, He can do more than you can ever ask or imagine, and He will be glorified (Ephesians 3:20-21), so that ultimately through you the world can see “nobody but Jesus.” How blessed are we that He uses us for His purpose.

 

 

Grateful

Our reading is Numbers 11.

Today, we learn about how God was not pleased with some of the Israelites striking them with a plague when they complained about only having manna to eat and no meat. We know from Romans 8:1 that now, “There is no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” However, we see here He does not like ungrateful words and an ungrateful heart and prior to Jesus paying the price for our sins, and He took action against some of them for this.

First, the Israelites complained back in Exodus 16:3 that they had no food to eat and would starve in the desert and would rather be back in slavery after wanting to be freed for years. Now, after God provided them with manna from the sky to eat daily (Exodus 16:4), they have the audacity to complain that they had meat when they were in Egypt and would rather be back in slavery (Numbers 11:4-6 and Numbers 11:18). Really?!

It is easy to be quick to judge the Israelites lack of gratitude, until we take a closer look at our own heart and thoughts. How quickly do we forget about an answered prayer and go on to the next thing or even worse get a prayer answered and say things were better before like the Israelites. We want a change in career..now we’re not happy with our boss and want a new career..or even back to the old one. We pray to have a house to call our own and to stop renting…now we want a bigger house. We are lonely and pray for a relationship or marriage…now we are contemplating a divorce thinking our current marriage can’t be fixed. We pray to have children of our own…now life is just crazy and we never have time for ourselves. We pray for healing from a medical issue…now we complain about the medical bills. I can easily hang my head in guilt over many similar items in my own life.

God makes it very clear that it is absolutely alright to ask God for what you want as Jesus clearly tells us this in Matthew 7:7-11. In fact, He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him and trust and come to Him for what we seek. However, we have to search our heart to find our motivation…is it for His glory or our own? Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Jesus also teaches and models for us in Luke 22:42 that it is fine to ask God for what you want as He asks for the burden of the cross to be removed from Him, but He also teaches and models how we should ultimately want God the Father’s will to be done and not our own.

So, how do we improve and soften our heart to have an attitude of gratitude? One thing I’ve found very helpful is to start a journal or notebook to write down each morning 3 things you are thankful for that day. No matter how bad things are we can ultimately find things to be grateful for. I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to be stressed and be thankful at the same time. Maybe there is also a song or something else which puts your heart and mind in a gracious state? At the end of this post is one that does this for me, Grateful by Elevation Worship.

Ultimately, we go to the living Word in Bible for the best way to do this which we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter our situation, we all can be thankful that He gave His life on the cross for us and conquered the grave and through admission of our sins and belief in Him we can do the same and spend eternity in Heaven with no pain and problems regardless of what hardships we face today in this short life on Earth.

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.