Tag Archives: gratitude

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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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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Love God…Thank God

A reprint from 2007 becomes

Grace Challenge Day 26

“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

This is at the same time the easiest and the hardest part of Christianity. When you love something, no effort is needed to express that love.Being “in love” consumes us.Our every waking hour is devoted to thinking about the object of our love.We find ourselves struggling to focus on other things.We have to force ourselves to work, eat, sleep – or we do all these things with that person in and on our mind. Remember?When we love God on this plane, obedience and service and study and worship become effortless.My yoke is easy, my burden is light is realized in the context of absolute mad love.When we look at the verse as a whole, resisting the temptation to break it down into parts (What does it mean to love God with my heart or mind?) we see that the command is all encompassing. Love God with every part of you:the inside, the outside, the tangible, the intangible, the major, the minor, the significant and insignificant.In every way, with everything, LOVE GOD.

This leads us to the first problem:this is a command.If we are honest with ourselves we would recognize that the above statement is not descriptive of our natural tendency toward God.How do you force yourself to love someone or something?We have the idea that loving someone happens naturally, hence the term:“falling in love.”It just happens.It just keeps going.Well for most of us, this is not the way it is. We may have a sense that it just happened, but keeping it going has proved to be more of an effort – more like climbing than falling.

As I have contemplated this, here is an incomplete list of things to do to increase and build your love for God.

  1. Recognize the depth of your sin and the huge need you have to be forgiven (Luke 7:36-50). The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.
  2. Recognize that all that you have, everything, comes from God (James 1:17).Everything.Everything.Big things, small things, seemingly insignificant things, the things you love the most in this world, they all come from God.Try disliking someone who daily gives you a gift.If I were to take you out to lunch every day, pick up the tab and give you a present, after a while – you would look for me.You would love me.God showers us with gifts every moment, multiple times over.Think about your every breath, it is a gift from God.Start counting.
  3. Recognize, behold the beauty of God (Psalm 27:4). Beauty triggered our love affair with our girl.Beauty makes love easy.And God has surrounded us with beauty – Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name (Psalm 29:2).Beauty triggers love in us.
  4. Verbalize the value (Psalm 9:1-2).I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, for every good and perfect gift. I will tell of all Your wonders and brag about Your beauty.Speaking is a powerful tool.It affirms the truth we believe.It discerns and points out our inconsistencies. To speak the words, “I love you Lord,” affirms and builds in us the emotion of love.It acknowledges and gives credit to God when you verbally thank Him, which affirms in you that the gift is a gift. It makes it harder to take for granted.
  5. Spend time in proximity to God (James 4:8). The promise is that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.When you spend a lot of time with generous, good, beautiful people, your tendency to love them will increase commensurately.God is the ultimate good, the most magnanimous, the unmatched beauty of the universe – when you see Him, you will love Him.He rewards those who seek Him.

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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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Thanksgiving Proclamation

Every year the President of the United States makes a proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving.  It wasn’t until 1942 that the fourth Thursday of November was the “regular” day for Thanksgiving.  In the early days Thanksgiving was often celebrated in December.  This proclamation by Franklin Delano Roosevelt was given the last year of WW2.  It is a good read!  I also enjoyed his suggestion that people read the Scriptures between Thanksgiving and Christmas “to the end that we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God…”

THANKSGIVING DAY, 1944
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION
In this year of liberation, which has seen so many millions freed from tyrannical rule, it is fitting that we give thanks with special fervor to our Heavenly Father for the mercies we have received individually and as a nation and for the blessings He has restored, through the victories of our arms and those of our allies, to His children in other lands.
For the preservation of our way of life from the threat of destruction; for the unity of spirit which has kept our Nation strong; for our abiding faith in freedom; and for the promise of an enduring peace, we should lift up our hearts in thanksgiving.
For the harvest that has sustained us and, in its fullness, brought succor to other peoples; for the bounty of our soil, which has produced the sinews of war for the protection of our liberties; and for a multitude of private blessings, known only in our hearts, we should give united thanks to God.
To the end that we may bear more earnest witness to our gratitude to Almighty God, I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas. Let every man of every creed go to his own version of the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, President of the United States of America, in consonance with the joint resolution of the Congress approved December 26, 1941, do hereby proclaim Thursday the twenty-third day of November 1944 a day of national thanksgiving; and I call upon the people of the United States to observe it by bending every effort to hasten the day of final victory and by offering to God our devout gratitude for His goodness to us and to our fellow men.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
DONE at the City of Washington this first day of November in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-four and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-ninth.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

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How Blessed Are You?

I find it amazing that I can find things to complain about even when things are going well.  Do you do the same thing?  It has become popular to label some of the things that we complain about as “First World Problems,” meaning that they really aren’t problems at all in comparison to someone who lives in an impoverished country.

For instance.  I am really upset that the microphone on my Android Tablet doesn’t work so I can’t Skype or Hangout on Google or use the voice to text feature.  Arhhhggggh! (My spell checker isn’t working either).

That is a first world problem.  As I sit here in Starbucks with my Black Tea Lemonade (I don’t drink coffee) ready to complain that the AC is too low and the music too loud and the chair is too hard…well, you get my point.  This is not to say that people who have “much” can’t suffer or have real problems.  It is to say that we need to guard what we consider a legitimate gripe or complaint.

A real first world problem is that we have a superabundance of material blessings for which to be grateful. (Check out the Global Rich List to see where you rank among the world’s wealthy) And we should be grateful.  But the lesson is that no amount of physical and material wealth and blessing will bring true satisfaction and this base dissatisfaction will drive us to greed, consumerism, materialism, the constant pursuit of wealth above everything else, and , ultimately, a lack of contentment.  There are different arenas in which we give thanks.  We give thanks for things.  We give thanks for people/relationships. We give thanks for beauty.  We give thanks for spiritual things.  Those things are all proper and good.

But there is another area of thanks that is necessary and more basic than all the rest, that  is thankfulness for personal creation.  It is this area of gratitude that will make sure that you will be a thankful person no matter the circumstances external to you.

Are you thankful for how God has put you together?  

Before we finish the Grace Challenge and so that it isn’t just a passing activity that we involve ourselves in, this feature of Grace-Gratitude-Graciousness demands exploration.  This is how we move from Gratitude simply being something that we do and make it into something that we are:  truly Gracious people.

So here is a Grace Challenge Prayer that needs to be fleshed out by you, but let’s start with a simple phrase to pray:

“Father, thank you for making me the way you did.”

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