The Trinity and Grace – Grace Part 2

Last year I was asked to help in writing a book of devotionals for our church campaign on grace. It was the first time I had been asked to write something for a book, and I really appreciated the opportunity. I have decided to post these devotionals every other day over the next couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy them and that they make you think about the wonders of the grace of God.

You can see the previous post by clicking the Link below:

0e2858935_1391320609_sermon-image-02022014-the-love-and-peace-of-the-triune-godGalatians 4:6 – And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Growing up in church and Christian school I was taught about the Trinity form an early age.  One God in three distinct parts all being equal in power.  The Trinity has been a source of argument for centuries as people try to nail down exactly how God could be complete and whole, but separate and distinct.  As a kid it was REALLY confusing, and these were my impressions on the “breakdown” of the triune God:

  • God the Father – We know He loved us because He sent His Son, but looking through the Old Testament, He was not a person that you wanted to upset. Much of the teaching I heard as a kid at church and school went so far as to make me feel threatened at all times by His wrath if I stepped out of line.
  • God the Son – He died on the cross for our sins after living a perfect life. His death gave you salvation, and you should try to live like He did.  You won’t be able to do it, but you should do your best to do it because if you don’t, see above…
  • God the Spirit – ? Well, think of it like your conscience… Something nobody really seemed to understand, but they knew it was there to help us and it could keep us out of trouble.  Again, see above…

As  I said in the last post, grace is a good gift given to someone who does not deserve it.  Taking that definition and looking at the Trinity, you can start to see where grace flows through each part of the Trinity all the way down to us as His creation.  Each member of the Trinity acts to bestow grace on us independently, in their own distinct way.  This verse speaks of  each member of the Trinity, and when we look at the members of the Trinity and what we know of them, we can see how they use grace in their own distinct way in order to reach into our hearts and lives.

  • God the Father shows grace to us as a father who provides for His own. We sinned, and while His holiness demands separation, His love extends the gift of eternal life.  Not only did He send His Son, He calls us sons if we have put our faith in Him.  We can approach God Himself as a child approaches his father!  That is amazing!
  • God the Son created us (John 1:1-3), and while His creation chose self over Him, He showed grace in giving His perfect blood for us and in giving us a Helper.
  • God the Holy Spirit is our Helper. More than a conscience, the Spirit is there to facilitate change in our hearts through promptings and patience.  Where we are weak it gives strength; where we have failed, it allows us another chance.  It also provides us the power to live as God intended – fully alive for His service and glory! A gift from God that we do not deserve for the expressed purpose of growing us in our relationship with God.

I wonder sometimes if the reason we didn’t learn much about the Holy Spirit back then was because there was not a focus on how grace is a gift that is for life rather than just for salvation.  We were saved by grace, but then we were told to follow the law.  In truth, we were saved by grace, and then brought into a life where we obey God through the grace He gives us to do so.  The Holy Spirit in us is, in my opinion, the greatest expression of grace.  You cannot understand the Holy Spirit if you do not understand grace.  A perfect gift (the Spirit of God) in our imperfect bodies.

  • How do you see the members of the Trinity?
  • How do you see the grace of each part working in you?

Father, You are a God of grace in all your being.  Thank You for showing it to me through all three parts of the Trinity.  Help me embrace that grace in service to You.

Grace is what makes Relentless Growth possible.  I fail almost daily, but through God’s grace I am encouraged by His Spirit to get up and go again.  I am inspired by the example of Christ, and I am compelled to obey my heavenly Father to bring Him glory for what He has done for me.

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Core Values

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I promised you last week that I would tell you about one of the things I learned from a challenge I have taken this month.  The first day of the challenge I was asked to define my core values.  I thought I had them in hand, but as I sat and really thought about them, I realized that I needed to look at this a little more closely.  The challenge had some good reasons to do this that I wanted to share with you.

Core Values are the things in your life that act as your compass when the way seems unclear.  You might not know what is right or wrong in a situation, but if you have your bedrock values, you can hold your situation up to them and see a more definitive path.  When we make determinations that way, we are better able to remove some of the fickle attitudes or desires that come and go in our lives.

Defining our values gives us purpose. – If you don’t have a destination in mind then you will just go anywhere.  The Bible backs that up quite well in The book of Proverbs:

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I do not want to live a life of turmoil.  The path of my life may have some rough spots in it, but it is a lot easier to endure a difficult day of travel when you have a destination mapped out.

Defining our values prevents us from making bad choices – Don’t get me wrong.  we will still make mistakes, but this should keep us from making any really BIG ones.  Knowing exactly what is important to you and breaking it down to its details will allow you to make decisions more easily when things are a little fuzzy because you have your values to all back on. If you are about to take action in something that conflicts with your values it will give you an unhappy feeling, and that should help you stop!

Defining our values give us confidence – When we really think about something and take the time to internalize what it means to us, we become more confident in what we are going to do about it.  We gain a courage to take the next step because we have thought it out, and we can make the choice with commitment.  Writing them down helps us with that!

Defining our values makes life more simple – If you know what you value, then you can make difficult choices more easily.  You just ask, “Is this a conflict?”  If the answer is no, then you go for it.  If it is, then find another way.  It sounds too simple, but some of the simplest things in life are the best. Much of the confusion in our lives is there simply because we haven’t sat down and really thought about what we want.

So, how do I do this?  What steps are necessary to make a list of core values?  Well, it is going to take some work, but when you take the time to do it, you will see the world a little more clearly.  Some of the fog begins to lift where things have been undefined or have lacked priorities. In the end, you see a framework of what really matters to you, and you can then begin to build on that.  Dress it up to reflect who you want to be, and then you will have the clear boundaries to help you be that person.  So, here we go!

  1. Get relaxed. – This should take some time, and unless you have some type of martyr-like mentality, you should be comfortable as you sit down and think things through.  Do whatever works for you, but get your stress level down before you begin. It will help you think more clearly.  Take a walk, a nap, read a book, do whatever you need to do to minimize the mental noise.
  2. Have your tools. – WRITE IT DOWN!  Paper and pen/pencil are necessary for this.  You need to scribble things out and have a visual cue of decisions being made as you whittle this down to the things that really matter.  There is an element of sorting here that cannot truly be appreciated with a “backspace” button. (I say that and I am a guy that would rather use a keyboard for almost anything!)  Also, there is something about the activity of pen on paper that just feels more binding.  Can’t explain it, but that’s the way it is!
  3. Ask, “What is truly important to me?” – This is not a question to be asked lightly.  It takes guts.  Think about the things that make you happiest, most satisfied.  Maybe you will need to think about the things that make you the most angry or currently cause you the most frustration or confusion.  Answers maybe in there that you will need to sort through to make a solid list.
  4. Write down EVERYTHING that pops is your head. – As you get the words out on paper it allows others ideas to take shape.  There is nothing wrong with a big list.  The more you have there to work with, the more likely you will find the things that matter to you the most.
  5. If you have more than five values, you have too many! –  I know, you just did a bunch of work and went all the way to the back of your brain for ideas, and now I am asking you to cut it back to five.  Make it the five that really speak to your heart.  It needs to be the five things that you know you could not live without.  When you can’t decide, just put two of them against each other and ask which one matters most.  Eventually you will work the number down.  Trust me. Five is enough!
  6. Make the biggest deal the biggest deal! – You have got to prioritize them.  Rank them from most important to 5th least important.  We can even have conflict within the five things that matter most to us.  If we consciously put an order to our top five, then we can look again to our values when we are having a conflict of priority.

This type of exercise is being presented to us every day – particularly in the business world.  We need our values to guide our actions and our attitudes in order to be better in our careers.  Is that the only reason to do it?  Is this a recent idea?  I don’t think so.

Christ spoke in the book of Luke about what it takes to be a disciple.  He was actually warning them that being His disciple was not just showing up for church or sitting and reading the Bible.  It requires work, sacrifice, a Relentless desire to be made over in His image and lead others to the same!  It is going to cost us:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

– Luke 14:28

One of the ways we count the cost is to determine what we hold dearest to us.  What are we willing to fight for, and what are we willing to let go?  Do we put enough value in certain areas of our lives that we can give over to Christ?  Are we willing to look hard at ourselves and see our deficiencies and give them to Christ so He can make us strong in them?

Your values can and will change over time.  This is a great exercise for a person committed to Relentless Growth, and one that I will be doing every couple of years form now on.  Call it a “recalibration.”  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my top five and why I chose them, as well as how I hope to see them work themselves out in my life.

How about you?  Are you up to the challenge of picking your values?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!  Feel free to comment or message me privately at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com.

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Rooted, Built, Established & Abounding In Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving Blog #5

Fall-foliage-Boston-MAThat time of year is here again.  We have said goodbye to another summer and are now in the dwindling days of fall. If you live in Northern Michigan, I think we skipped over the last half of fall, and we are now knee deep in winter! Fall is one of my favorite times of year.  The leaves changes, the sun takes on a different glow, there is a crispness in the air, and my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving – and pie! We won’t talk about my insane love affair with pie right now. though! It really is a sad thing… Seriously… I need help…

Anyway, back on track.  Thanksgiving is that time of year when we like to reflect on what we have to be thankful for.  There are a lot of differing opinions as to how Thanksgiving came to be. Some say religious; some say it has nothing to do with God.  I found the following on Wikipedia, and while I do not always look at that as a reputable site, I think this is a fairly unbiased report of history:

“Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress, each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes. As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, `as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God’.”

Personally, I love that the Pilgrims took the time after their first winter to thank God and the Native Americans that helped them survive it.  It is a good thing to intentionally set aside time to give thanks for the good things that we have and for the people that support us.  That tradition has carried on, and in two days, many of us will sit around a table with family and friends and take a moment to give thanks for all that has been good in our lives over the last year.

Is that what Thanksgiving is about, though?  Just the good things?  I don’t believe it is.  There are a lot of things that I see in my life that are good, and I am thankful for them.  I have a wonderful wife, two great kids, a great family, some very good friends, a roof over my head, and so much more.  I am thankful for them.  They bring joy to my life, and I can’t imagine life without them, but I have other things that are not as “good.”  If you’re expecting a list, too bad!  Let’s just say that we all have things that we would change if we could.  The question is, are we thankful for those things, too?

Four years ago this past April, I abruptly lost my job.  It was nothing to be thankful for – or was it?  It was during that time of my life, when so many things were falling apart around me, that I was able to finally get a real grip on my relationship with God.  He became real to me.  He was not just that God that we sing about on Sunday.  He became a Father I could cry out to.  A Protector from those out to hurt me. I found a Friend in His Son, Jesus that I could talk to about what I should do next.

By Thanksgiving that year I was in a new job, and things were still rough but sorting themselves out one small step at a time.  I remember feeling so thankful for all that God had done that year.  He allowed me to go so low, to a place where I could do nothing for myself.  I needed to be there so I could give it all to Him.  I am so thankful for that hard time.  It is a part of who I am now, and it is because of His love for me that I am able to say we need to be thankful in all things!  Through relationship with Christ we are given the power to BE thankful in all things!

If you spend much time reading this blog, you will see that I have a fascination with trees.  I love the fact that God does, too!  He uses them all through the Bible to give us lessons for living, and when you study how they live and grow, you can see even more of God at work in your life!  That is why I am drawn to Paul’s words in Colossians 2:6-7.  There is a progression laid out here for the Christian life that we can follow to truly experience Thanksgiving in our lives on a daily basis:

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

– Colossians 2:6-7

the-tree-of-life-hd_1. Receive Christ – If you haven’t done that, then you will find that thanksgiving will probably never extend much past turkey, stuffing, and pie.  Wonderful things, but they will do nothing for your eternity or for your personal growth. (With the exception of your waistline.)

2. Walk in Him – As a believer, we are called to walk as Christ would walk.  We should do the things He did, and live according to the words of God.  It is by walking in Him and with Him that we get to know Him and understand Him for who He is and what He did for us not just in His death, but in His resurrection!  We are made to know Him!

3. Rooted and built up in Him – As we follow and learn, we begin to put our roots down into what we know to be true.  Every time we see God come through for us, we grow a little deeper. Our branches spread a little farther.  We begin to show the life in us as we are growing in our faith in Him.

4. Established in the faith – Here is where we learn to stand firm and strong when we start to see the sun beat down on us making us feel dried out.  The cold winds tear at us, and we feel alone.  It is when those hard times hit us that we look to God.  We are in pain, but we are rooted in Him.  He gives us His living water to keep us alive.  He shows us His love when we feel nothing but hate.  He protects our soul when it is being ravaged by the world around us.  It is hard to be thankful in the middle of pain, but that is when we see the true effects of what we are grounded in.

5. Abounding in thanksgiving – I don’t think we need to wait for the storm to pass to feel thankful.  It is easy to be thankful when we are through the storm, but if we are truly walking in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in our faith in God, then we can always look around and see something to be thankful for!  Every day!  No matter what we face!  It is what sets us apart from those who struggle through life with no hope.  Our firm foundation in Christ is our hope!  It is our reason for being thankful, and it is why we can have Thanksgiving every day of the year!

I admit this is not always easy, and it doesn’t always come quickly.  The Christian life is a process of growth.  Just like a tree does not get planted one day and produce apples the next, we will need to go through a time of growth.  Trees might not visibly grow for a few years, but they are busy during those times putting down roots that will make them thrive later.  We might have times where we struggle to be thankful, but if we know Christ, are walking in Him, and are putting our roots down deep in our relationship with Christ and being established in our faith, then the natural outflow of that will be a life of abundant thanksgiving!

Relentless Growth is not something that just happens.  It requires a decision to be made daily to be thankful for a God who loves us and is there for us, even when He feels so far away sometimes.  We were made to know Him and to be close to Him.  We were made to draw on Him and to experience relationship with Him.  We have so much to be thankful for in Christ! As believers, we can’t let it just be one day a year.  Every day we need to make that choice to be thankful!

Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to my friend Joe for inviting me to this Thanksgiving week of blogs.  I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.  Please read all the blogs of the contributors as they get posted here each day.  Follow their blogs, share, and enjoy them throughout the year!

The Overboard Life – Joe Castaneda

The Musing of a Life – Bev Everett Landgrenen

The Real Life – Terry Porter

Danny Ray – Danny Ray

Be Extraordinary – Traci Castaneda

Making Life Beautiful – Becca Forrest

Relentless Growth – Tom Tanner

I look forward to hearing from any and all of you.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

(So, if  every day is Thanksgiving Day, shouldn’t I be seeing more pie?)

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong