Days of Grace-Day 28

     Being over half way through this study of grace, it seems only fitting to address the form of grace that we know as thanks, thankfulness or thanksgiving. Though we see less of it, saying grace or the blessing is still a big part on many people’s lives. Part of the grace life is our taking time to be grateful for the many blessings in our lives no matter what we are going through.

     Today, we come to First Corinthians in our study. The word grace is in eight places in this book of the Bible. It is also translated many different ways here, unlike most verses we have looked at where it is simply translated grace. Here we find it translated as grace; grace of God; thankfulness; thanks and gift. For our purposes today we will stick with thanks and thankfulness. Our first example to ponder today is:  If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?  1Corinthians 10:30

     Paul has been talking about the freedom we have in Christ and telling the folks that though all things may be permissible, all things are not beneficial and edifying. This particular conversation is about meat purchased in the market.  Paul says here it is fine to eat it but if someone tells you it was sacrificed to idols, then for that man’s sake do not eat it. He goes on to say, “If I eat with thankfulness (Charis), why am I slandered for that which I give thanks (Eucharisteo). ”  I think Paul’s point here is when buying meat in the market, they do not know whether it may have been sacrificed to idols or not but if it was that is on the one who sacrificed it not on the purchaser. However, if you are informed it was, then for the sake not of not causing another to stumble do not eat it. As long as it causes no one to stumble and he expressed his thankfulness for the meat, why would someone slander him for this?

     In chapter 15, Paul is teaching on the resurrection of Jesus, the order of resurrection and the mystery of resurrection. Paul sums up the mystery of resurrection this way: “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks (Charis) be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15: 54-57

      Webster’s Dictionary 1828 online defines thankful as grateful, impressed with a sense of kindness received and ready to acknowledge it. defines it feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative. In the verses we cited today, Paul first is expressing his gratitude for the food he would partake of and next he was expressing his thanks to God for the great victory we have through Jesus Christ over death and the grave. Yesterday, we also noted how Paul always expressed gratitude for those to whom he wrote the Epistles or letters to. Writing these letters was his way of keeping in touch with the communities of believers after he had gone to the next area to spread the gospel of Jesus. Reading through a few of Paul’s letters will give us understanding about Paul and his character. It seems our apostle lived a life of thanksgiving and gratitude. It was deeply ingrained in this man what Jesus had done for him, where Jesus had brought him from and what Jesus had brought him to. Paul, previously named Saul, had been known for persecuting the early Christians until he had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. That day everything changed and Paul became a fully engaged believer for life. (Acts 9) Paul knew he had much to be thankful for and he remembered to be thankful.

     James 1:17 tells us that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  What would happen if we, like Paul took the challenge to be thankful. What if we began to see every good thing and everyone in our life as a gift; something to be grateful for? I know, I can hear it now…how can I see _________ (you fill in the blank) as a gift? Maybe the blank is a person who is always challenging you or a difficult situation and it is almost impossible to find anything good in it. Think about this, if you will. Everything that has happened in our lives make us who we are. Each situation we find ourselves in has potential, even the difficult ones we would rather avoid. They are opportunities to grow better and stronger or to grow angry and bitter.  For example, when my parents died at a young age, you bet I asked why and I was not thankful to no longer have them with me. I was very thankful that they both knew the Lord; I was thankful that they did not suffer, struggle or become unable to care for themselves because I knew that neither of them would have wanted to be house bound; I was thankful for all the years we did have together and the memories we had made. We can always find something to be thankful for and trust me focusing on those things were much more beneficial that the alternative. There will be some times in life when things seem impossible and as though nothing good can come from them, but God is a God of redemption and He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond anything we can ever ask or imagine in any situations. He can redeem the years that the locust have eaten. In the mean time, maybe just maybe we can find little things all along the way to be thankful for as we wait to see how He unfolds the bigger picture in our lives.


Days of Grace- Day 21

     Incredible! We have been looking at one word for three weeks! Grace-We have seen firsthand that one simple word encompasses much more than one would think at first glance. Grace we have witnessed is often very costly. We have journeyed down a road beginning with God’s favor  to Noah. The world had become very wicked but Noah found favor in God’s eyes. A flood would destroy the inhabitants of the earth but Noah was commissioned to build a huge boat and prepare his family and pairs of all the animals in order that the world could start fresh after the waters receded. Just reading the dimensions of the boat and the thought of gathering all the animals is a difficult task but think of those long days on end with all those animals! Next we spoke of Moses. Moses had been raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter and lived forty years in palatial comfort until he fled to the desert and spent another forty years; then he was commissioned to lead God’s people to freedom. He had great mountaintop experiences with God, and he was the recipient of much grace and favor but leading approximately two million people in the desert was hard work and it cost him plenty. Hannah was heartbroken and childless, tormented by her husband’s other wife. She petitioned God and found grace and went on to have six children but it cost her first-born. Naomi and Ruth suffered the loss of their husbands, traveled the distance from Moab to  Bethlehem to return home and found God’s grace in a man named Boaz. It was a tough road for them but they persevered and found grace and favor.  Grace is costly!

      Grace can be frightening. Esther was selected by God’s plan and His grace to be the replacement queen to King Ahasuerus after he banished Vashti for her disobedience. It never mattered that the King’s request was inappropriate and demanded when he was in a drunken state Vashti was gone and Ester was now queen. Her people were going to be annihilated and she was in a position to help but it could cost her her life, she helped anyway and said “if I perish, I perish.” God’s grace was all over the future King David but David prior to kingship found himself in a volatile relationship with the current King, Saul. Saul would draw David in close and then David would be running to hide from him. This went on for years.  The Israelites received much prosperity and great times of God’s favor, yet there were time of captivity and bondage to foreign nations when they chose idols above God. They  would return to God and return to grace.  Sometimes it can seem that the cost is too great and too frightening. Consider Jesus. Bringing grace, mercy and forgiveness to the world cost Him everything. It was a priceless gift. He left heaven and His home with Father God and all that encompassed. He came to earth and lived a fully human experience. He was exposed to all the temptations and situations that we endure. Not once did He react sinfully to any of the trials and sufferings; not even when falsely accused, beaten until He was unrecognizable, nor when they hung Him on the cross. That dark day after endless suffering, He took upon Himself all the weight of our sin, bondage and sickness. He could have chosen not to but He carried out His Fathers plan. Because of His love and sacrifice we are the benefactor of great grace and mercy. Grace is brave and extravagant!

      Today’s grace verse is found in Acts 13:43. Let’s glance at it:  “As the meeting broke up, a good many Jews and converts to Judaism went along with Paul and Barnabas, who urged them in long conversations to stick with what they’d started, this living in and by God’s grace.” (MSG) (for context read chapter 13) Context is very important in scripture and I encourage you to always consider checking out the context and weigh scripture against scripture. Today, I am going to let this verse stand alone. Paul is encouraging all the believers, all those following the life and example Christ set for us to deliberately choose to live in and by the grace of God. What does that mean to us? For us? I believe it means we need to learn what we can about grace and be a student of that grace; asking for wisdom and understanding of what its full meaning is; seeking glimpses of grace in our lives and asking God to help us be aware of them both in the great times but also in the difficult times and in ordinary situations as well. Whether we are the receiver of grace or the giver, it is my belief that true grace flows from great love. because God loved extravagantly.  He provides great grace and out of grace flows great mercy; because we receive great mercy or compassion we are moved to great love for Him; out of great love for Him we are moved or should be moved to a great love for others. That great love will move us to show grace to them, and to have mercy and compassion toward them; even when they have not shown it to us. Why? Grace is costly. Grace is brave. Grace is extravagant.