A J-BAR PRAYER
Father, we come before you now on bended knee, hoping to honor you with our integrity. Please make our judgement as sound as steel and be our hands upon the wheel. Give us strength and vigilance on our routes and help us to serve others, as You did, Lord, without any doubts. Remind us to be gentle, humble and kind, and help us when we stumble in body and mind. Please shelter our families whilst we are away and bring us safely back to them at the end of this day.
Listen to this week’s devotional on The J Bar Experience Podcast!
How many of y’all know the magic words? Please, thank you . . . How many of y’all remember those when you were younger, being told to say “please” and “thank you?” When I was a kid, I was told those are the magic words, but in my broken little brain, I took that to mean I had some kind of power and some kind of control. So “please” and “thank you” were the ways to get the things that you wanted, right?
If you said “please,” that means that you got whatever you were trying to get. If you said “thank you,” that means that you got more of what you were saying “thank you” for.
Kind of a goofy little twist, but as I grew up and grew older, I didn’t always shed that childish understanding of the magic words. And as we move into November, we just finished Halloween. Did you see the video of the family that came up to a house led by the mom, and there was a sign next to the candy saying “please just take one” because the homeowner wanted to watch the World Series and didn’t want to be jumping up and down?
They got this video of this mom not being thankful for being able to take a piece of candy for each one of her kids, but they scooped up both hands and emptied the bowl – and it was a pretty good size bowl!
It got me thinking. I wondered A) if they grew up learning the magic words and B) I wondered if they thought that they were entitled to what was there in the bowl.
I want to read you a story (I love stories, especially stories that grab me where I live) from the Gospel of Luke. While traveling to Jerusalem, he passed between Samaria and Galilee. And he entered a village. Ten men with a serious skin disease met him. They stood at a distance, raised their voices saying “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!”
When he saw them, he told them “go and show yourselves to the priest.” And while they were going, they were healed. And one of them, seeing that he was healed, with a loud voice gave glory to God. He fell face down at his feet, thanking him, and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Did any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?
He told this man, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”
So I want to share a couple of thoughts. One reason why I love this story is because it takes the magic words and stands them on their heads. We tend to have that understanding that the word and the power is mine. If I say “please,” I have the power. If I say “thank you,” somehow that makes me the chief player in the drama.
A couple of things as we get started: First, if you are not really familiar with Jesus and why where he was is important, Luke specifically mentions he is between Galilee and Samaria. The people that lived in Galilee were primarily Jews. And if you see in the news these days, there is a lot of anti-Jewish rhetoric on the rise, and that is not a good thing. The people, the Jewish people, were trying to follow all the rules.
He says he was coming between Galilee, where the Jews lived and Sumeria where the non-Jews lived. And to put it in simple terms, they were kind of half-breeds. They were people that the Jews did not like. They had some common history, but the Jews felt like the Samaritans were not worthy of anything.
So for Jesus to be right in between this section between the Jews and the non-Jews, really caught my attention. It says sometimes you find God where you are not expecting. The Jews certainly wouldn’t be expecting him in Samaria. The Samaritans certainly didn’t expect Jesus, being a Jew, to be anywhere close to where they lived.
But we find these ten men, we have these geographical regions and the people who lived there, we have these villagers that have their own local expectations. Kind of like if you are in Burnet, on Fridays you wear green because you root for the Bulldogs. If you are in Marble Falls you wear purple because you root for the Mustangs. And God help anybody who lives in between there somewhere.
But we find God sometimes where we are just not expecting him, so that’s the first thing as we move into this season of thankfulness. Keep an eye out because sometimes God shows up where you’re not really expecting him to be. And sometimes we find God in the very familiar.
So these very sick men, in this version I was using, it says they had a skin disease. Some Bibles say they had leprosy. They had something that was going on that for the rule followers, declared them unclean.
So think in terms of you having some sort of disease that prevented you from being at your job; that prevented you from being with your family; that prevented you from going to Church if you wanted to; that prevented you from going to the store; that prevented you from just going out with your friends. Those were the rules, and these ten men had kind of found community in the fact that they couldn’t hang out with anybody else.
So for them, that was very ordinary. But when they looked up and found God where they weren’t expecting him, they cried out. And this is where I think a lot of times we get stuck. We expect God in the big. We expect God in the huge. We expect God in the monumental requests. Jesus was just walking. He was just going from Galilee towards Jerusalem, and was in between these two places. And these guys asked what they had asked a lot of people before this: “Can you please heal us? Can you please have mercy on us?”
We find Jesus responding to their request in a very simple fashion. There were no fireworks, there was no wave of a magic wand, there were no big theatrical tricks, no powder kegs, no flames. He just said “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And for us that might sound odd, but the Jews had rules. And if you had a disease that was preventing you from being part of any of the connection with God and his people, you had to wait til you got better and you had to show yourself to the priest, and the priest would tell you “yep, you are better.”
So Jesus’ response is a very ordinary one. “Show yourself to the priest.” And it says while they were going, they were healed. They were cleansed.
So a couple things as we move toward this point of the story. I love the fact that when Jesus said go show yourself to the priest, they could look at themselves and say I’m not better yet. It was while they were going that something happened. That something changed and the plan that Jesus had all along, looking like it’s really ordinary and happening in some place where you really wouldn’t expect to find God, changed these men’s lives.
Now, why do I talk about all that, especially tying it in with the magic words? You see, the only thing the men asked for was mercy. “Jesus, have mercy on us.” That was their prayer. It wasn’t very eloquent, it wasn’t spot on, they weren’t real specific, they weren’t using precise language; they just cried out to God and said we really need help, and we recognize that you are in a position to do that.
Luke tells us that while they were going, they were cleansed, and one of them came back. Now sometimes it’s easy to jump on the other nine, but they were following Jesus’ instructions, they were following the rules. They had to go and show themselves to the priests. They were probably trying to get back to their normal day-to-day. They hadn’t been able to just live their life in so long. But there was one whose heart changed in addition to his skin. And scripture says that he came back and with a loud voice gave glory to God and thanked Jesus.
So when I look at this story I do want to remind us that sometimes we get in our head that God only shows up in certain places. And sometimes those of us who follow Jesus think that God only shows up in certain places and you’ll hear that in “you need to come here. You need to do this. You need to do that.” But sometimes Jesus shows up when we are really not expecting him to.
A lot of times we get caught up in the cycle of it’s gotta be big, it’s gotta be best, it’s gotta be flashy but sometimes God speaks in just the very ordinary moments of our lives. But my hope for each one of us is when God shows up, when he answers your prayer, when – even if it’s not very eloquent and flashy and you say “oh, I can’t really use the right words” – God is hearing you. And when you recognize that, my prayer is that you will use the magic words. Tell God thank you. Because it’s not just magic, trying to get more of what you’ve gotten, but it is more a reflection of that heart change that begins, that I really can’t see but it presents itself on the outside.
When was the last time you said thank you, not to gain what you do not have, but as a recognition for what has been done for you, given to you, and has been placed in you?