Tag Archives: Grace

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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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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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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I am Thankful for Church

We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.   Paul to the Thessalonians, book 1, chapter 1, verses 2-8.

I am thankful for my church.

It is the place I have been fellowshipping and serving for the last 21 years.  Like Paul, I have been practicing thanksgiving for the church for 21 years.  God is at work in the church.  He is cultivating faith, love and hope in Christ Jesus.  The people are beloved of God and chosen by God.  I have witnessed growth and the imitation of Christ repeatedly.

Are you thankful for your church?  If not, I would recommend a change of attitude.  Here are some reasons to be thankful for your church.

It is a place of faith.  One of the primary graces of God to you and your brothers and sisters in Christ is the gift of faith.  In the church we find people of faith and since faith results in faithfulness, trustworthiness, and loyalty you can find people who will be faithful to you, that you can trust.  Everyone needs those kinds of relationships and they are to be found in the church.

It is a place of love. God is love.  If we love God we will love one another.  The church is a place of love.  Everyone needs people to love them.  The church is a safe place where love rules.

It is a place of hope.  God is in the business of replacing despair with hope.  No matter what the circumstances around us we can find hope in the worship and promise of the church.  God is in charge.  He works all things together for good, He will never leave or forsake us.

In over 50 years of belonging to the church I have found this to be true, and I am thankful for the church.

If you have a different experience, here is my advice:  start being thankful for the church.  Start small.  Be consistent in thanksgiving and then look for people who need a dose of faith, hope or love and start giving it out to them.  Instead of looking for others to love you, build up your faith and give you some hope, be the person who loves, offers a leg up to someone who needs a boost of faith, and find someone who is more desperate than you and inject some hope into their lives.  I guarantee it will change your experience of the gathering on Sunday that we call church.  If you become a reason for someone else to be thankful, you will start to like being a part of the church too.

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Lexicon of Gratitude

Yesterday’s post was simply a posting of Psalm 100.  It is a simple Psalm of Thanksgiving.  Here are some of the key words in the Psalm.

Joy:  the highest mood of worship is joy.  Shouting with joy accompanied the sacrifices because they brought about forgiveness (Leviticus 9:24).  Shouting with joy accompanied the presence of God (Isaiah 12:6).

Praise: sincerely exalting the character, nature, and activity of another, specifically God. Praise is a confession or declaration of who God is and what he does.

Thanksgiving: express one’s public proclamation or declaration (confession) of God’s attributes and his works. This concept is at the heart of the meaning of praise.

Bless:  Bless the Lord is an odd phrase.  Usually the blessing goes from the greater to the lesser, and in this case we are called to “bless the Lord.”  Its answer may be found in noting that the root of the word is “kneel.”  Just as Thanksgiving is a necessarily reciprocal activity (Thanksgiving has a subject and an object, you can’t be “thankful” without someone to be thankful to) blessing may have the same reciprocal characteristic.  In order to receive God’s blessings, we must bless/kneel to Him in praise and Thanksgiving.

Grace Challenge Day 24 leads us into the final weekend. Fill tomorrow’s worship with shouts and songs of Joy, Praise and Thanksgiving, and bend then knee in worship so that you might experience the blessing of God.

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Tone is EVERYTHING

Today’s Grace Challenge, day 16, is inspired by Jolene Flores…

If you have ever been a parent to a teenager, or if you have ever been a teenager, you know the truth in the adage “It is not what you say but how you say it.” As we seek to be more cognizant of our thanksgivings, I have been reminded of the truth kernel within such a maxim.

Being married to a pastor who is actively involved in the grace challenge, I have been impressed and humbled by his attitude. He genuinely is thankful, and seeking the blessings in all things. On the other hand, I have had a bit of a struggle. Though I strive to incorporate “grace” and “eucharisteo” in my every days, lately I have struggled with my tone.

It isn’t that I am not thankful, but tone and context indicate more than just my spoken words. Let me give you an example to help color the picture in a bit. Laundry. I was picking up laundry after a challenging day at work, and I bumped something and had all kinds of clothes (clean and otherwise) fall on me. Oh boy, did I grumble. And then a little voice (something like the angel on my shoulder) reminded me that I should not complain but in everything be thankful. And so, I “thanked” God for hangers and this mess. However, to say that my tone was off would be an understatement. My tone was the kind of tone that you would get from a bratty toddler…or teenager….that is more sarcastic and patronizing than true to the words spoken. “Thanks a lot MOM.” “This is just GREAT, thank you SO much.” Indeed, that was me. A cross somewhere between rebellious toddler and bratty teenager.

I immediately repented. After all, doesn’t God deserve more than a patronizing “thankful” grumble through clenched teeth? I think so. I remembered the Israelites wandering, having their breakfast manna, and saying “Hey God, thanks a lot for this bland, blah, cardboard to eat.” (Ok, so I am taking creative liberties in my imaginings of their conversations, but you get the point.) Can you imagine if your spouse came home to you on a special anniversary evening and said to you, “You know, you really are ugly. But I am glad you can at least ______ (cook / clean / cut the grass / fill in the blank).” Obviously tone and context is everything.

Gratitude is so much more than words. It is a condition of the heart. It is looking at the simple, seemingly insignificant, and finding awe in it. It is overlooking a dirty floor and reveling in the sound of child laughter spilling out of the next room. It is wonder in an embrace during a lonely season. It is looking at a sunset and marveling at the color palate that is never exactly the same as the days previous. It is quiet, introspective, and most importantly, honest.

So today, let me challenge you. Don’t patronize God with your thanksgiving. If you are not thankful for a pile of dishes that need to be washed, don’t “thank” Him. He created you, after all, and He knows better than anyone what is in your heart. Be honest when you practice gratitude. Only then will you truly understand the incredible gift that it truly is.

Jolene Grace Flores

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My Record of Grace

Today’s post is offered up by Dan Flores.  Dan is a pastor at Olive Grove Church, father of two fabulous boys, married to the Diva of Nuevo (yesterday’s guest poster, Jolene).  Dan does something helpful for us here by sharing an actual journal entry from his Grace Challenge Journal. Thanks Dan for your contribution to the

Grace Challenge Day 9

Here’s an excerpt from my Grace Challenge journal this week:
Jesus Christ is my pastor. I am a pastor for Jesus Christ.
The responsibilities of leadership in my life are in this order: I’m first a husband. Secondly, I’m a father. Finally, I’m a pastor. I can only be superior in these roles because Jesus is my pastor. And I’m starting to age… I mean grow in these responsibilities…just a little.
This autumn marks five years since Jolene and I came back to Nuevo in obedience to the pastoral call on our lives. Time has passed with such speed; it feels like we just moved in. We’ve seen substantial change and additions to our lives. We bought our first home. God gave us two healthy boys. We’ve embellished our lives with almost eight years of matrimony. And I became an ordained minister. Going from studying to be a pastor to becoming one has been enlightening. The past five years have been a semester unlike any. I have plenty of gratitude to give God:
  • Thank you Lord for the wife You gave me. She continues to love me in a way that lives up to her name, Jolene Grace. May she continue in radiance despite any ways I might conceal her resplendence. Help me love her as Christ does. I love being her husband.
  • Thank you Lord for the children You gave me. They are healthy, gregarious, and turbulently active boys. As I transfer my youth to them, may I grow wiser with age and resemble You, Heavenly Father. As a result, may they always call You their Father as well. I love being their father.
  • Thank you Lord for the call You gave me. I now have a greater understanding of Jesus and am more in awe of who He is and just what He did as our Good Shepherd. While I may not be wholly perfect as He is, may you use me to direct others to Him. I love being a pastor.

New to the Grace Challenge?  Use this as a template for your own journal entries as you experience Grace this November.  If you are just starting here is the introductory and explanatory post.

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