No, They Don’t Happen in Threes.

three-stoogesWhenever famous people die it comes up.

“Things happen in threes.”

It is called “triaphilia” – an obsession with three. But, really, they don’t.

Is it David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey? Or do we include:

  • Clarence Reid, R&B Singer known as “Blowfly”
  • Mic Gillette of Tower of Power
  • Lemmy
  • Dale “Buffin” Griffin
  • Celine Dion’s brother
  • Lawrence Phillips
  • Ashraf Pahlavi?

Death happens every day. 150,000 people die every day. 56 million deaths a year. 3.9 billion within 70 years. In 100 years every person alive today will be dead.

I guess saying that it happens in threes lessens the reality of death.

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The Riches of Grace

Today’s post is offered by my friend Roy Goble.  Roy was the best man at my wedding.  Read more great stuff at his blog called Junkyard Wisdom and visit PathLight Ministries, an organization that he founded. The only thing I have against him is that he is a Giant’s fan, but congratulations anyway, Roy!  Thanks for your contribution to the

Grace Challenge – today is Day 7

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” Galatians 2:10

The most significant missionary effort ever pursued by the Church began with the mandate to not forget the poor.

Who are the poor? Our minds go to those who have the least in material possessions. But there are also the spiritually poor. They live without the inner grace of God to guide their hopes and dreams. Sadness and ingratitude are often their companions. By contrast, the spiritually rich have the Spirit to warm their hearts and guide them through the most difficult of times.

I know of such a person. She has every right to complain. She is 88-years old and her body still suffers the consequences of a stroke. It is a difficult adjustment for a person who was constantly in motion. Her eyesight has been taken by macular degeneration. So many simple joys – reading, bird watching, driving, watching a movie – are all in the past.

The most difficult part is losing her daughter to cancer. No mother should ever have to bury her child.

It’s amazing that depression doesn’t simply crush her. But she has an inner richness that defies the physical and emotional poverty.

I asked her, “How is it that you fight off the sadness? How do you push it away?”

Her answer was simple, “I’m thankful. Whenever I feel down, I start to think about all the things that I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for good parents who cared for me, for friends who shared life with me, for children that love me, and for a warm home that comforts me. Most of all, I’m thankful for the grace of God. When I’m down, I focus on those things. And my spirits are renewed. How can I be sad when there is so much to appreciate?”

I think of her often. She makes me rethink the poor – and the rich. Her spirit of thankfulness shapes my own heart, mind and soul. She models the grace of Christ.

There is an old Celtic prayer that goes like this:

Bless, O Lord,
this food we are about to eat;
and we pray you, O God,
that it may be good
for our body and soul;
and, if there is any poor creature
hungry or thirsty walking the road,
may God send them in to us
so that we can share the food with them,
just as Christ shares His gifts
with all of us.

Amen.

May we too remember the poor, and may both the spiritually poor and materially poor find their way to our home, for in their company we can find the grace of God at work in our hearts.

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Gratitude’s Hands and Feet

Grace leads to Gratitude leads to Graciousness.

Our first example of this was how Gratitude leads to the Graciousness of Worship.

Today we highlight the second part.  Our lives have both horizontal and vertical elements; Love God and love your neighbor.  So Grace goes both ways as well:  Be gracious to God (worship – eucharist) and be gracious to others (service – charismata).  A truly grateful person sees that the best expression of gratitude only begins with the words of Thanksgiving but culminates in the actions of grace.  The actions of grace are the expression of spiritual gifts.

This is how Paul puts it:

 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;  that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12).

This is how Peter put it:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God  (1 Peter 4:10).

This is how Jesus put it:

 …just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

The end result of grace is that people serve one another, or to use our grace/gratitude language, they are gracious to one another.  We treat others how God has treated us.  He has been merciful, kind, and loving toward us.  So today, the Grace Challenge calls us to be gracious toward other people.  Do you need to forgive someone?  Forgive them and be reconciled.  Be intentional today in kindness, in both small and larger ways.  In so doing you become imitators of God and Christ!

 

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Gracious Worship

I shall wash my hands in innocence, And I will go about Your altar, O LORD,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving And declare all Your wonders.
O LORD, I love the habitation of Your house And the place where Your glory dwells. Psalm 26:6-8

Is worship an obligation?  Do I have to worship God?  Well the answer to that question is yes.  Our only reasonable response to a powerful, holy God is worship.  But the beauty of a gracious God is that His love toward us turns obligatory worship driven by necessity and fear into free worship driven by deep gratitude.  When we see that God has blessed us beyond imagining our response becomes more than rote and much more than obligation.  It now becomes driven by joy.

So what is driving you to church today?  Is it obligation, the “have-to’s”?  Or is it best described by the phrase above:  “I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells? When you practice thanksgiving on a daily basis keeping in contact with the day to day, moment by moment grace of God, our obligations become our desires, even more, obligations become our loves and passions.

So let’s follow the progression:  Grace leads to Gratitude leads to Graciousness.

The first movement of gratitude to graciousness is how we “treat” God.  Do we deal with God graciously?  If our worship remains simply obligation the answer to that question is no.  The way we are gracious to God is by returning love to him freely; worshipping him not out of obligation but willingly.  The way we get there is by internalizing His grace to us through thanksgiving.

Keep giving thanks.  Keep on worshipping God.  When done in concert you can overcome the drudgery of obligatory worship and be transformed into a passionate and gracious worshipper.

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Gratitude Overflowing

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude  (Colossians 2:6-7)

You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).

These two verses are parallels. Paul may as well be making commentary on Psalm 23.

The first part speaks of God’s blessing of salvation.  The Psalmist describes it as an anointing, the picture is of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:5  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Paul in Colossians speaks about this as the receiving of Christ.  This is Grace.

The second part speaks of the result of salvation and is described in superlative terms  “My cup overflows,”  and “gratitude overflowing.”  A believer is one who has been blessed beyond our capacity to hold the blessing – it is too much. God gives us more than we can handle!

I have often thought of what I call a “Job Situation.”  If God took everything away from me: job; family, house, car, bike, etc., would I still be able to give thanks?  Another way to look at it is that if all God gave me was Jesus, would it be enough? Our answer to both questions is yes.  All I need is Jesus. If this becomes existentially true, that is we really believe it for ourselves, then every other blessing is more than overflowing!

Today, thank God for Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the Holy Spirit, regeneration, sanctification, eternal life, abundant life and whatever else you can add to the list that describes the inheritance of the saints in Christ, ahhhh, that’s you!

Grace Challenge Day 2: Singing in the Key of G

Grace Challenge Day 4: Gracious Worship

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Singing in the key of G

Grace Challenge Day 2

Grace may be the word that best summarizes Christianity. In English, “grace” is connected to two other important words that teach us a response to grace: Gratitude and Graciousness.

Here is how it works. First and foremost, our life, salvation and everything in between is a result of the grace of God. Every breath I take is a grace of God. I cannot be saved apart from grace. Grace emphasizes and points to God as the center. Life is all about Him. He reveals Himself to me not by force, but by grace.

Second, the only appropriate response to grace is gratitude. Thank you is the highest form of praise. Thanksgiving demands a subject and object relationship. You must give thanks “to” someone, it isn’t a “personal” activity. Gratitude acknowledges God’s activity and includes my response to His activity. “I” and “Thou” are included in thanksgiving. The activity of God and its effect on man are tightly woven together in thanksgiving.

Third, when grace has its full impact upon me it forces my vision outward. Grace and gratitude grow into graciousness. Gracious living characterizes true conversion. Judgmentalism, legalism, “holyism”, all deny grace and manifest themselves in me-centered selfish living. It is no mistake that the gifts of the Spirit are called “charismata” ie. “graces” or “grace-gifts.”

Grace leads to gratitude leads to graciousness.

This Thanksgiving month we will be focusing on grace and our response to grace, that is gratitude! Cultivating gratitude is an everyday discipline; it is retraining our minds to focus on grace. The hymn writer got it right: “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” The lyrics to the tune of Grace are framed in gratitude, they are words of Thanksgiving.

Read Romans 1:1-12, noting the progression of GRACE (1:5, 7) to GRATITUDE (1:8) to GRACIOUSNESS (1:11).

Instructions for Starting the Challenge

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The Grace Challenge

Today we start a monthlong experience of Grace.

For the month of November you will find a daily devotional available at both The Temple Blog and the Olive Grove Church Website.  Reminders and links will be posted daily on Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

Here is the challenge:

  1. Give Thanks every day.  Be deliberate and specific.  Grace demands gratitude and our daily challenge will be to frame our thinking, attitude, heart, and outlook on grace that results in thanksgiving. Every day you will be encouraged to have gratitude be the dominant expression of our inner and outer person.
  2. Verbally express your thanksgiving every day, multiple times per day.  Express verbally (outloud) in prayer. Give thanks to God for every perfect and good gift that he has given to you.  Express verbally to someone else what you are thankful for.
  3. Record your experiences daily.  Get a notebook dedicated to keeping your record of gratitude (we will have notebooks available at church on Sunday – or you can simply get one yourself).  If you are faithful in this task you will have an amazing record of blessing and grace from God that will serve as a memorial and reminder.
  4. Refrain from posting negative posts on Facebook, rather taking a positive posture.  So no whining or complaining.
  5. Come regularly to worship and express publicly what you have collected in your pool of praise and thanks for the week.

The premise to the challenge is this very simple principle:  Gratitude will change your life because it connects you directly to the power of Grace.  The promise is included in the challenge:  Discipline yourself to 30 days of immersion into gratitude and you will be a different person at the end.

I Will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Thy wonders.  I will be glad and exult in Thee; I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High (Psalm 9:1-2).

Grace Challenge Day 2

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Irreplaceable

Nadia Bagdanov, 1924-2013 Rest in Peace

“There is nothing that can replace
the absence of someone dear to us,
and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard,
but at the same time it is also a great comfort.

For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled
one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness.
God in no way fills it but much more
leaves it precisely unfilled
and thus helps us preserve — even in pain —
the authentic relationship.

Further more,
the more beautiful and full the remembrances,
the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms
the torment of memory into silent joy.
One bears what was lovely in the past
not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within,
a hidden treasure
of which one can always be certain.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

ht: Tiana Steinhoff for the Bonhoeffer quote; Ellen Bagdanov for the photo

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In Memory of Nadia Bagdanov

Nadia Bagdanov April 8, 1924 – September 13, 2013 226880_1077708471220_5125_n

Services:

These words were penned by Nadia’s granddaughter Melissa:

If I said that facing the impending death of someone as amazing as my grandma was hard, that would be an understatement. It doesn’t matter how much you try to prepare yourself because the truth is, you’re never really ready to face such a great loss…

As I sit here trying to process it all, her life, her death, the amazing gift of even being able to call her my grandma, the reality of having to live the rest of my life on this earth without her, I find myself overwhelmed at God’s love, His goodness and His perfect timing. Many of you who knew Baba know that she was a very strong, very stubborn woman and she demonstrated that until the very end. The doctors gave her less than week to live, but she and her stubbornness proved them wrong and instead, she lived almost 2 months. Because of that, my family was given a very special gift, a long goodbye…the opportunity to spend precious time with her all the while knowing that every goodbye could be our very last…until it finally was.
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I know her memory will live on…we’ll be able to hear her critiquing our varenyiki every Christmas from now on (we promise not to make them look like slugs, Baba…we’ll aim for 5+’s now more than ever ), we’ll still be able to hear her snarky remarks during Dzeda’s speeches before family meals, and her telling us to love each other…something she did so well.

Until we see her again, we mourn our great loss but celebrate her GREAT gain. I have no doubt she heard the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful, servant’ when she entered the presence of her Savior this morning. She truly was an incredible example…an example whose footsteps have been etched so deeply in my life and heart. She will forever be one of my greatest role models and inspirations and I feel so blessed to be part of such an amazing legacy.
But words cannot even begin to express how much I will miss her…
I love you SO much, Baba

Please leave any comments here and I will be sure to pass them on to my Dad.  I am sure he would love to hear words of encouragement or remembrance from you.  Mom loved Jesus and was confident in her last days.  She loved her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  She will be missed and her words will encourage us for years to come.  The Bagdanov family was blessed by God to have Nadia as our Mom.
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Praying for Others

The dynamic of prayer in the fellowship of the Saints is a dying art and practice.  Here are some guidelines for the art of what is known as intercession.

in·ter·ces·sion

Moses Prays for Israel
Moses Prays for Israel
/ˌintərˈseSHən/
Noun
  1. The action of intervening on behalf of another.
  2. The action of saying a prayer on behalf of another person.

There are many examples of intercessory prayer in the Bible.  Paul is a good source, he communicated what he prayed to the the people for whom he prayed.  One of the best and most detailed prayer comes from Colossians 1:9-14:

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NASB)

So here are the items in Paul’s prayer that you can use to pray for others.

  1. Pray that people be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
  2. Pray that people have spiritual wisdom and understanding.
  3. Pray that people walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
  4. Pray that people please God in every respect.
  5. Pray that people would bear fruit in every good work.
  6. Pray that people would increase in the knowledge of God.
  7. Pray that people would be strengthened with all power so that they would be steadfast and patient.
  8. Pray that people would be filled with joy and would not forget to give thanks to the Father.
  9. Thank God that he qualified them to be a saint in the Light.
  10. Thank God for rescuing them from the domain of Darkness and that they are in the Kingdom of His beloved Son.
  11. Thank God that their sins are forgiven and that they are redeemed.
  12. Thank God that they are in fellowship with you.

Notice that I didn’t do anything special. I just hijacked Paul’s prayer and personalized it.  Paul was praying for actual people in Colossae, pray for the people who sit next to you in church. The following week, share with the person that you prayed for them. Depending on your personal knowledge of the person you are praying for you can be more specific. Depending on your level of study and understanding of the passage you can add detail to your requests.

Some other passages that are intercessory in nature:  Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-21; Ephesians 3:14-21.  List some others in the comments.

 

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Temples using their temples are the new Temple