“Give Thanks With A Humble Heart”

Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow. As you sit down to eat, will you take some time to share the reasons you are thankful? What will it sound like? “God, I thank You that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers… I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Wow, that sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? Actually, this “prayer” comes from the Bible, Luke 18:11-12, not as a model of how to pray, but as a warning.

Jesus is teaching using one of His favorite techniques, the parable. A parable is simply a story used to make a spiritual point. Here, Jesus gives us 2 characters, a Pharisee (a well-regarded spiritual leader in the community), and a tax collector (a despised member of the community seen as a traitor and a cheat). Both go to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prays, giving us a glimpse of his heart, thanking God that he is not like “those people”, those sinners he lives among. Especially, he thanks God he is not like the tax collector standing nearby. Self-righteousness and conceit ooze from this so-called religious leader.

Then Jesus shifts attention to the tax collector. “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13) This man recognized who is truly is. He was able to see and understand his own heart, a true grace from God. Unable to boast in himself, he comes to God pleading mercy. And Jesus says, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” (Luke 18:14)

When studying a parable it is important to understand the audience being addressed. Here we are told Jesus is speaking to, “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” (Luke 18:9) If there ever was a parable prime for Americans, this is it. We may be thankful for our families, jobs, homes, etc. But we would also be quick to say that we worked hard for all of it. Right? So we deserve all of it. “God, I am thankful I am a hard worker. That I have saved enough to provide for my family and to buy all of those toys we love so much. I am thankful I am not like those lazy, homeless people who just need to get a job already and stop wasting all of their money on drugs.” What about those sentiments? Perhaps we wouldn’t say them out-loud, but have we thought them? Do we live like that?

It’s not the point of the parable or my modern rendering of it to make us all feel like dirt. Rather, it should help us identify any self-righteousness in our own hearts. We should be thankful for everything we have, but we shouldn’t think it is solely by our own power or hard work that we have obtained anything. In fact, true thankfulness overflows from the understanding that we are all 100% dependent on God for all things. True thankfulness is what pours out of our hearts when we start to understand who God is, not only what He provides. True thankfulness takes the attention off ourselves and puts it on God, where it belongs.

Finally, the parable also points to the fact that self-righteousness is not the root issue but merely a symptom of the bigger problem. The real issue is that mankind is so dead in sin that we cannot come to God with any righteousness of our own. Thinking we may gain eternal life by doing so is foolish. The people Jesus is speaking to in this parable were trusting in themselves, believing they were righteous and thus merited favor with God on account of their own goodness. Jesus spins that whole idea on its head. In reality, God says any righteousness we think we have on our own account is really more like filthy rags, only good to be thrown out. (Isaiah 64:6) Instead, Jesus calls for us to recognize our sin, our failings before a holy and just God, and to give up trying to earn anything on our own merit. We must trust in Christ, His sacrifice upon the cross, and that through it we can receive His righteousness through faith. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus ends the parable, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Humble yourself today before God and pray that He will lift you up.

Make this Thanksgiving a day where you don’t just eat oversized portions of food, but a day to spend time thanking and praising God for who He is and how He provides for you daily. Stop trying to give the world the impression that you are so great, or thinking you can make it to heaven because of all that you do is so good. Rather, recognize your failings. God is in the business of saving broken people. Only then will you be able to truly say you are a thankful person.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“Giving Thanks in the Midst of Sorrow”

Like many, I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard about the church shooting in Texas on the Sunday afternoon of November 5th. Every time something as evil and tragic as this occurs, it is heartbreaking. However, these events in Sutherland Springs hit close to home for me. As the details began to emerge I couldn’t help but see the similarities between our towns, our churches, and our people.

Sutherland Springs is much smaller than Globe/Miami and yet we both have the same mentalities of a close-knit community, generational heritage, and good-hearted kindness. Many of the churches in our area are of similar size, look, and layout. Seeing video from past services at First Baptist Sutherland Springs was like looking in a mirror. Ultimately, I recognize what binds me to them (and all followers of Christ) is that we are saved by and worship the same Jesus. We are one body in Christ. And as our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer and hurt, it causes the rest of the body to suffer and hurt too.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Will it be celebrated in Sutherland Springs? Will those who experienced such a tragic event even want to set aside a day to focus on giving thanks to God? Honestly, I cannot answer for them. And whatever they decide for themselves is okay. The amount of time that goes into healing from a situation like this varies. It will take time, prayer, and loving relationships for people to be able to truly heal. In times like these, one must hold on to the promises of God even when it seems difficult to do so. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

At the same time, we must remember that followers of Christ are able to give thanks even in the midst of life’s severest storms. Not because we are stronger than other people, but because we have a strong God to lean on. If you’ve ever taken time to read the book of Job in the Bible, the first two chapters make completely no sense if you don’t keep in mind who God is. Job is a man who is blessed with so much of the material possessions we consider to be the good things of the world. He has money, family, and integrity (a rare quality). We look at men like that and say, “Wow, they are really somebody.” But it doesn’t last. Job loses everything in one horrific day. All of his wealth is gone and all his children are killed. What will Job do now? In a moment such as this we might want to follow the advice of Job’s wife: “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Yet, that is not his response. In the midst of sorrow, Job professes his continued trust and allegiance to God, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

How can he do that? How can anyone be so thick-headed as to not see that God must not really care about Job. God must hate Job. Right? Otherwise, why would an all-powerful God allow this to happen? That is where the book of Job really shines as a insight into the mind of God as to the “hows” and “whys” and what God is doing in His people through heart-wrenching situation. God never leaves us or does anything that does not have purpose. Job came to understand this after the long and difficult period of waiting and wondering. “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) It was a time in Job’s life where the temptation is to despise and run from God; yet what we really need in times like these is to come to know God more, to come closer to Him. “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42:5)

Like Job and the many other saints of the past who have trusted God in the midst of sorrow, I pray that followers of Christ today will not waste life’s storms but use them as times to come nearer to your God, to give thanks in the midst of sorrow.

I will continue to prayer for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, and everyone who has been affected by this devastating moment in time. I pray that God would heal hearts and minds, and that through this, many people would come to see how fragile life is. Come to see that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. So today, if you have not been made right with God through Christ, do so. We don’t always understand this world and the things that happen in it but as Pastor Pomeroy said in a brief interview the day after the shooting, “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.” That is something you can take to the bank. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“Give Thanks”

Fall is such a wonderful time around here. My family and I enjoyed a great October with all of the fall festivals and activities around town, capping it all off with the fun downtown trick-or-treating event. What a great time of year to be in Globe/Miami!

Now we enter some of the most joyous (and stressful) times of year. Are you ready? Are you ready for good food and good times with friends and family? Are you ready for cheerful songs and treats? How about the beautifully chilly weather that makes you dress a little warmer and cuddle up a little closer? At the same time, are you ready for busy shopping centers and high prices? How about the headache that comes from trying to think up the perfect gift idea for that special someone? Trying to do it all with a smile and balanced checkbook can be a daunting task for many. However, I think that if we focus on the reasons we celebrate this time of year that perhaps all of the added baggage will be lightened.

For starters, are you willing to live every day in thankfulness to God? If there ever was a month to do so, November is that month. God abundantly blesses, provides for, and sustains each of us daily. Even those who refuse to bow the knee to Christ are currently receiving daily benefits from Him. “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) Still, in spite of God’s goodness and provision for all His creatures, many continue to rebel against Him, despising His good gifts. This is the corruption of sin.

It reminds me of the time Jesus came across a group of ten lepers as He was on His way to Jerusalem. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they called out to Him from a distance. (Luke 17:13) He looked at them and told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they went, each of the ten lepers were cleansed. They were healed physically and they also were now ritually clean, bringing them back into the community. No longer would the lepers live as outcasts but now as fellow citizens. You can imagine the joy and excitement that would have flooded these people and the gratitude that they must have had for what Jesus did for them. Yet you wouldn’t have known it by what happened next.

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:15-16) Only one of the ten turned back to praise and give thanks. Jesus responds, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Jesus replies (Luke 17:17) You see, each of the ten received the same physical blessing from Christ and yet only one gave thanks. Why is that? Why are people so prone to take the good things from God and yet not give Him thanks and praise? Do we really think that we have obtained everything we have by ourselves, apart from God? The Apostle Paul asks the question this way, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Finally, Jesus turns to the one leper who returned to give thanks and said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19) Now some Bible commentators say that this is simply Jesus showing that it was right for the man to turn back with thanksgiving and that the man was recognizing Jesus’ unique status and identity. And yes, they are correct. However, I think that other Bible commentators are on the right track when they notice that the phrase “your faith has made you well” is often used to point to not merely physical healing but something of a spiritual healing as well. I think this man who turned back to thank Jesus, doing so in faith, received something that day which the other nine did not. His faith in Jesus made him well in body and in spirit. Just like all of God’s creatures receive daily blessings from God, but only some turn to Him in faith and give thanks.

So then, how will you spend these next two months? I encourage you to do so with thankful hearts. Thanking and praising God for all of His mercies and blessings in life. Don’t be like the lepers who take the good gift and then forget about the Giver of the gift. Instead, fall at the feet of Jesus and give thanks.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe