Category Archives: Thanksgiving Devotionals

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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Grace Doesn’t End with the Grace Challenge

Grace Challenge Day 30

I hope you journaled during the Grace Challenge.  Your journal will serve as a powerful reminder of a powerful new habit and the abundance of Grace that God continually pours out on you.

The intention of the Challenge was not simply to give you something to do, it was designed to change who your are.  The goal is to be a grateful person, so the habits and patterns (the doings) of the challenge need to become the very fabric of who you are.

Continue to use your journal to record the ongoing grace of God in your life.

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Pay Grace Forward

Grace Challenge Day 29

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; (2 Corinthians 9:8)

I hope this has been a transforming experience for you.  Gratitude can change your outlook on life and by doing so change how you live your life.  As we have talked about the process of Grace leading to Gratitude we have noted that it results in Graciousness. So who have you loved differently as a result of your Grace experience?  What opportunities have you had to be gracious instead of grumpy, kind instead of cranky?  As the verse says:  grace abounds to us so that we might have an abundance for good deeds.

As you enter the advent season, a season traditionally marked by gift giving (graciousness) make your giving not out of obligation but truly out of grace.  Here are some Grace Challenge encouragements for your gift giving, for your abundance of good deeds:

  1. Make a list of the people you are buying gifts for this Christmas season in your Grace Challenge Notebook
  2. Pray for them daily; Give thanks for them daily.
  3. With your gift, write a note that expresses the content of your prayer and thanks for the person you have been gracious towards. Use Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 as examples for your writing and prayer.
  4. Believe that your prayer and thanksgiving is worth more than the monetary value of the gift given.

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Ultimate Worship

Grace Challenge Day 28

“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

This line of praise is from the The Revelation to John of Jesus Christ.  All of these characteristics belong to Christ and to our God:

Blessing:  We bless God in worship:   In order to receive God’s blessings, we must bless/kneel to Him in praise and Thanksgiving.

Glory:  We exist to glorify God.

Wisdom:  “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy”  – in other words a perfect description of Christ. James 3:17

Thanksgiving:  In everything give thanks.  1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Honor:  A son honors his father (Malachi 1:6). Worship extends to all of life because how we live our lives either brings honor or dishonor to God.

Power: By submitting to God we ascribe power to Him, we acknowledge that He is in control and we are not.  Submitting to God’s power is expressed via obedience.

Might: Humility is the posture of worship.  Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6)

Amen…Amen.  The first and the last.  This phrase is bracketed by a double amen, something we usually use as an ending.  The word “amen” means “truly” (“verily” in the old King James).  To bracket the phrase with “amen” confirms with emphasis the certainty of God’s redemption of His people, resulting in this ultimate expression of worship.  Worship is the highest human expression.

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Contagious Thanksgiving

Grace Challenge Day 27

For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15

Thanksgiving is contagious.

The more you express thanks, the more grace that is given causing more thanks to be given and so on.  The ultimate result is the “giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.”  And this is why we exist and this is how we find happiness.

1 Corinthians 10:31. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Romans 11:36. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Ephesians 1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

The Westminster Confession puts it this way:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever

If you want to fulfill your purpose (glorify God) and you want to be happy, give thanks.

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