Tag Archives: God’s grace

Gratitude Power

No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18 (NLT)

In the New Testament, gratitude and appreciation expressed in thanksgiving, has three primary associations.  The first, thanks is given at the communion service (Eucharist) for the broken body and blood of Jesus (Matt. 26; Lk 22; 1 Cor. 11); the second time, thanks is given for the blessings that come through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 2:14; 9:15) and finally, thanks is given for those who come to know Christ and who bring joy to the Apostle Paul (Col. 1:3; Eph. 1:16).

In his letters to the early church and ministry, the Apostle Paul lavishly expressed gratitude to those he wrote to for their role in both receiving the Gospel and in extending God’s “hope of salvation” to others within their immediate sphere of influence.  Paul was well acquainted with the power of gratitude (Ep. 1:15-19; Phil. 1:3-4).

Because gratitude is critical to not only individuals but also to the health of society in general, new focus is being placed on how to increase its occurrence.  Recent studies in the area of psychology confirm that we can intentionally cultivate gratitude with the consequence being increased well-being, joy and happiness.

In addition, gratefulness, especially expression of it to others, is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.  The positive psychology movement has embraced these studies and in an effort to increase overall well-being, has begun to make an effort to incorporate exercises to increase gratitude into the movement.[1]

It is God’s will that in everything, we give thanks.  It is not God’s will that we express gratitude for “gratitude’s sake only” but because with the giving of thanks, His power can be released into our life in ways never before seen.  This includes the formation of incredible joy, unshakeable hope, and unbroken peace (1 Pet. 1:2-4).  The outward expression of appreciation to God and others, works to bring new power and access that, under other circumstances, would be unattainable.

As we examine our walk of faith, we must ask ourselves, “Am I harnessing the full power of gratitude?”  “Am I receiving the benefits of gratitude that are now available to me?”  According to the Greek writer and philosopher, Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Maybe it’s time for you to begin engaging in gratitude power.

[1] Wikipedia, “Gratitude”.

The Language of Gratitude

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?  Luke 17:17 (NRS)

How is “grateful” language developed?   Gratitude, as we defined it is an expression of thankfulness for benefits or goodness.  God is our Eternal Benefactor providing us both good and perfect gifts (Ps. 103:1-6).  While it is understandable that believers should desire to express our gratitude to Him for all His many benefits, we must exercise greater intentionality in displaying our gratitude to the world.  We must develop the language of gratitude.

Interestingly, the concept of thankfulness is noticeably absent in the early writings of the Old Testament.  Instead language that was ordinarily translated as “praise”, such as yadah and todah, was used to convey the concept of thankfulness for God’s works and character (Ps. 118).  It would be later in the wisdom literature that God’s people would be encouraged to express purposeful gratitude for God’s provision and protection (Ps. 107:21-22; Eccl. 5:8-6:9).

In the New Testament the vocabulary for thanksgiving and gratitude expanded with the use of “thanks” (eucharisteo) and other terms such as “grace” (charis).   Jesus thanked God for hearing His prayers (Matt. 11:25) and for raising Lazarus (John 11:41).   The Gospels and the Epistles later developed the concept that gratitude for God’s deliverance in Christ characterizes the language of gratitude (Col. 1:12-14).   As God revealed Himself through His various dispensations, thankfulness and gratitude became a key response by creature man.  This was true in the case of the one leper healed by Jesus in today’s text.

As Jesus passed through the region between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers entreated Him to have “mercy on them”.  They recognized the possibility of receiving beneficence from Jesus—He would help them in their affliction.  Jesus “saw them”—He recognized their need in this dire circumstance—and then “sent them” to the priest to verify their healing.  As they went, they were made clean.  But one of them saw that he was healed and turned back to Jesus, praising (doxazo) God.  He prostrated himself at Jesus feet and thanked (eucharisteo) Him.   The one leper showed the proper response to Jesus’ act of grace (charis) but what about the other nine?  Were they not grateful?  Why were they not also praising God and thanking Jesus for their healing?

As you read the narrative of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19), who do you most identify with—the one leper who returned to thank Jesus or the other nine lepers?  What stands in the way of your expressing gratitude to God?  Do you attribute your accomplishments to your efforts and yours alone (pride)?  Do you compare your current life circumstances with that of others and feel “cheated” of your rightful blessings (envy/covertness)?   Are you dissatisfied and discontented with life desiring more than is currently yours (greed/thankless)?  Let your expressions of gratitude mirror those of the one leper who could do nothing less than praise, worship, and thank God for all His goodness.  Begin today practicing the language of gratitude so that when you enter heaven, your gratefulness will explode into joyful praise (yadah and todah) as you stand before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who made eternity possible for you (Rev. 19:1-6).

The Boundless Gift of Grace

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.

Ephesians 1:7- 8 (NKJ)

Grace was a song we often heard as children at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.  I can still hear in my mind the Senior Choir, led by Mrs. Olivia Gentry, bellowing out the chorus which highlighted the richness and indescribable power of God’s grace.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace

His grace is sufficient for me.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace

His grace will give you

The victory.

As we continue our series on victorious living, we would be remiss if we did not take time to examine the source of our salvation and “crown jewel” of God’s blessings—God’s grace—without which, victorious living would be impossible.  For it was the grace of God that would finally resolve man’s issue with sin—his personal sin that thwarted his relationship with His Heavenly Father.  It would take extraordinary, boundless grace to reverse the downward spiral of fallen man.

In the Old Testament, grace (hen) generally referred to one finding favor and acceptance with God (Gen. 6:8; Exo. 34:9; Ps. 84:11).  In the New Testament, while grace still infers the favor of God, grace (charis) is extended to include God’s good will and loving-kindness.  This boundless gift of grace was and is extended to us through Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11, 14).

Jesus Christ made it possible for God to complete His plan of salvation, created before the foundations of the world (1 John 3:5, 8; 4:9).  This “glorious grace” (Ep. 1:6), which actually characterizes the nature of God  has resulted in God’s choosing us, adopting us as sons, and making us ”acceptable in the Beloved” or one with Christ (Ep. 1:3-6).

In Christ, man finds redemption and forgiveness of sin.  Jesus satisfies the holy and “legal” requirements of God by paying the price for sin with “the shedding of blood” (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22).  When God’s people chose to continue in their sin, unable to keep His laws, God made actual the eternal blessing uttered in eternity.  God sent His Son (John 3:16).

In Ephesians 1:8, Paul states that the riches of God’s grace abound toward us.  The RSV translation builds on that thought, using instead, “lavished upon us.”  Such extraordinary covering by God’s grace flows from the depth of His love (1 John 4:9-10) and includes with it the recipient’s understanding (wisdom and prudence) of “Christ’s purpose, to feel His heart of mercy, to approve and to concur with His redeeming plans, as men ‘made wise unto salvation’” [1]

One thing all men (and women) have in common regardless of time, space, or geography is sin.  We see sin’s effects everyday—crime, civil strife, social injustice—all these find their root in sin.  And there are “subtle sins” that are hidden from the visible eye yet still affect the behavior of individuals, churches, and society, in general—greed, jealousy, envy and hate.   But “in Christ”, the believer’s identity with Christ and his position before God the Father, men now have access to the only thing that can reverse sin’s grip on hearts.

The issues of the 21st century are in actuality “heart issues”.  Hearts hardened and determined to live self-centered and disobedient lives.  Neither money nor power can resolve humanity’s woes.  Narcissistic or charismatic leaders cannot end political impasse.  Better schools or larger jails won’t end generations of economic inequality.  There is only one thing that can reverse the cycle of death set forth by sin in the Garden of Eden—it’s God’s boundless gift of grace.

Alec Motyer in this classic book, Look to the Rock, gives insight into the impact of God’s boundless gift of grace:  “When God’s people could not rise to the height of His standard, God didn’t lower His standard to match their abilities, He transformed them.”  This transformation is possible only through acceptance of God’s boundless gift of grace.

Grace, Grace, God’s grace

His grace will give you

The victory.

SELAH:  Write down your thoughts on how the boundless gift of God’s grace has changed, is changing, or can change your life.

[1]  Ephesians Studies, H.C.G. Moule

God’s Gift of Rest

“For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’

“although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”

Hebrews 4:11 (NKJV)

While on vacation this month, I had the opportunity to purchase my second Fitbit device after successfully killing my original one.  After a year of consistent use, I found that it really does promote personal movement, healthy eating and rest.  Yes, rest.  One of the features on my Fitbit is a sleep function that tells me how many hours a day (yes, it tracks naps) I rest as I pursue my “sleep goal”.  It faithfully sends a nightly text to tell me to cease from my activities and “begin to prepare for bed” (it really does).

Health experts and social scientists agree that the need for rest is critical to not only our physical well-being but also our emotional health and our cognitive performance.  The writer of Hebrews also recognized the value of rest especially the rest God gives, as a gift, to His believers.  Today I’d like to share my thoughts on rest in the context of intimacy with God and returning to our First Love.

Rest defined

Webster defines rest not only as sleep but also as “freedom from worry or trouble”.   Most uses of the word rest in the Bible are nontheological; they take on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people—the recipients of the both the Old and New Covenant.

Also read:  “Seeking and Finding God

God introduces Rest

In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest was introduced in Genesis as God ceased from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3).  Sabbath rest was later commanded as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15) as evidence of God’s love and recognition that all living creatures, man and animal, needed physical renewal and respite.  Canaan rest finds its beginning with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. It included not only deliverance from Egyptian slavery but also establishment of protection and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15).  The tribes of Israel also enjoyed God’s gifts of rest when they settled in the land, which flowed with milk and honey (Josh. 1:13-15). In following God’s commandments, they would ultimately acquire rest experienced by “peace in the land”—no longer threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).

Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement presented believers with the opportunity to enter into God’s Eternal rest.  This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises available on this side of heaven (2 Pet. 1:4), His presence manifested through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26) and will culminate with the blessed reward of eternity with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”

Accessing God’s Rest

Accessing God’s gift of rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him.  Rest is not cessation from work but in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His plans and purpose for our lives.  This exercise of faith provides peace and release from anxiety and fear.

On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:

The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest (Heb. 4:11).  That is, they are to be responsive to the Lord and let His Word and Spirit guide then to the solutions he has already provided for their problems.

God has provided us with the Holy Spirit, who acts as our spiritual Fitbit to tell us when we need God’s rest.  When we have been negligent in our personal time with Him, we become spiritually restless and ill-tempered.  We can’t seem to concentrate on the things of God because we lack the rest we need to keep us emotionally and spiritually healthy (Col. 3:1-4).

We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice.  Such trust can only be ascribed to the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.  Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, protect, and give use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37).  He knows the end from the beginning, and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10).  It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest.  He invites us to draw near and enter into His rest.

SELAH:   Are you in need of God’s rest?  Is it time for you to recommit, refocus, and reprioritize your relationship with the Lord?

Returning to Our First Love, Part 2

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4   (NKJ)

Last week we explored the need to return to our first love, Jesus Christ.  This return is characterized by our deep devotion and love for Him.  This week we will continue this discussion by examining ways to journey back to Him.  This process begins with an awareness of our current position and ends with specific strategies to return to our first love.

Awareness of our current position

We begin by acknowledging that we have left our first love.  How do you know that?  By “examining yourself to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor.13:5).  This does not infer a loss of salvation but recommends an evaluation of your progress toward spiritual maturity.   Spiritual maturity not only includes “what you know” but also “how you live out what you know”—your profession of faith (1 Tim. 6:12).  Are you being conformed to the image of Christ or do you resemble the world? (Rom. 12: 2)   Are you intentional in your relationship with Christ?  Do you seek “His Face” (presence) or only “His Hand” (favor)?   In God’s presence, you take on “the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5); His thoughts become your thoughts, resulting in changed behavior.  Spiritual maturity is the visible evidence of Christ’s presence in your life.  What is your current position?

Strategies to return to our first love

Once aware of your current position, it is time to develop specific approaches to move you back into fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:3).

Recommit yourself to Him Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)  If after examination you find that you have left your first love, repent and return to Him.  Nothing you can do will ever separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:39) and He stands faithful to forgive you (1 John 1: 9).  Recommitment involves renewing your loyalty to Christ and His lordship over your life.  This includes directing your time, talents, and treasures to the service of the Lord.

 Renew your love for HimI will love You, O LORD, my strength (Psalm 18:1).  Tell the Lord how much you love Him.  Although He is all-knowing, He still wants to hear you tell Him how much you love Him.    Let Him know you desire Him with all your heart and soul (Ps. 42:1-2).  Show your love for Him through your praise and worship.  You are never closer to Him than when you “love on Him” (Ps. 22:3).

Reprioritize your life around Him.   Christ set the standard for priority when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt.  6: 33).  However, to make God the center of your life is counterculture.  Everything in modern society encourages and rewards people who place themselves “at the head of the line”.  But when we place Christ first in our life, we are assured that we have chosen the “Good Part” (Luke 10:38).

Now is the time to return to your first love.  He is waiting with open arms.

SELAH:  The gospel group, The Winans, recorded a song entitled, Prone to Wander, which best describes the believer’s tendency to leave their first love.   Read these lyrics “thoughtfully” and reflect on those times when you were “prone to wander”.  Afterwards write your version of prone to wander including the “happy ending” when you promise, “Never to wander again”.

Prone to wander, exploring the unknown
Prone to wander, seeing if we’ve grown
Destined to blunder, hope that I’ll recover
Never to wander again

I never should have left your side
It took deep waters to make me realize
Not within your borders, void of any order
Never to wander again

I have been mixed with deep experience
Both good and bad, yes, good and bad
But it has caused me Lord
To love you more than I ever have, ever have

Prone to wander, no more my refrain
Cause I’ll never leave your side no more again
Destined to blunder and hope that I’ll recover
Never to wander, said I’ll never leave your side
Never to wander, said I’ll never leave your side
Never to wander again.