A Gift Too Wonderful For Words

Emmanuel. God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety.” –  Charles Swindoll.

Wondering about the wonder of God is always worthwhile. But the wonder of wonders is God with us. Two millennia ago in a small, rugged Bethlehem barn, God the Son became Immanuel, “God with us”—God incarnate. He lived as we live, suffered as we suffer, died as we die, yet without sin. And He overcame the power of death in order to give us eternal life.

At its heart, Christmas is the celebration of a promise God had made to provide a Savior and King. That Person is His Son, Jesus—God-Man, conceived miraculously, taking on human flesh, living among us in order to die in our place.  God becoming flesh.

God becomes human to walk among us, teach us, and love us in radical and liberating ways. The beauty of God with us is that God didn’t come to us in the form of a Hercules-type Demi-god, almost human, but stronger, faster, richer, and better in every way. No Emmanuel came to dwell among us, as one of us. God with us came to be in the midst of two ordinary people. God with us came to be in human form through Mary and Joseph. There wasn’t anything special that Mary and Joseph had done, just as there’s nothing we can do, to make ourselves more worthy of God with us. God is with us in spite of our imperfections and our struggles and our sin.  God became like us so that we could become like Him.

Hopefully, we will walk slower and think deeper this Christmas.  Hopefully, we will take a few minutes to wonder as the shepherds wondered and to worship as the wise men did. And hopefully, we will take a few moments to imagine the infinite God in the body of a finite baby. The best gift we have ever received came on that first Christmas—delivered in a Person from God the Father . . . to us.

“Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you explain “the Incarnation?” Why do you think it’s important?
  2. Do you see grace and truth at work in your relationship with God? How can you experience more of it?

The Attributes Of God – The Grace Of God

What are God’s attributes? Each Friday we will look at an attribute of God. This week, the grace of God. Grace is the bestowal of blessing unearned or unmerited. When we speak of God’s grace, we speak of those wonderful gifts, like salvation, that no man deserves but God grants anyway.

“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ….God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” – Romans 5:15, 20.

While all of God’s attributes should evoke a sense of awe, humility, and wonder, grace is one of the most astounding and life-transforming aspects of God’s character. From the beginning of time, God has chosen to give us grace rather than His wrath. Time and time again, we’ve turned our backs on Him, and yet “ He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” (Ephesians 1:7)  

Both the Old and New Testaments describe God’s character as gracious, meaning that He is full of grace and kindness. This is how God described Himself to Moses: “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6-7). King David also wrote about God’s graciousness: “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9 NIV). King Hezekiah proclaimed that “…for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate… ” (2 Chronicles 30:9 NIV). The apostle Peter called God “the God of all grace.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Each morning we wake up is a show of God’s grace. If you’re able to drive to work in a car or have money to take the bus, those are displays of God’s grace and mercy. Jesus teaches us that God doesn’t hoard good. He doesn’t hoard His grace or give it out to a limited number of special people. God demonstrates a desire for everyone to experience His grace. This includes “those people who are annoying maddening or just bad.” In Jesus’ time, the so-called “bad people” were tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, and Gentiles. But Jesus welcomed these people and forgave them. Jesus puts God’s grace on display to humankind.

It’s God’s grace that equips you. It’s God’s grace that holds you. It’s God’s grace that grants you a relationship with Him and eternal life with Him.  

As God’s grace works in our lives, we learn how to extend it to others. Through our actions, the grace of God blesses those who come in contact with us and become a testimony to others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Does grace erase the consequences of wrongdoing? Why or why not? 
  2. How might your life change if you were to accept God’s free gift of grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy?

How Do We Respond To Critics

“But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.” – 2 Chronicles 36:16.

No one likes criticism, but encountering some is inevitable, so we need to learn how to respond in a godly way. Although you might be tempted to become defensive or angry, remain calm and listen. The words may hurt, but great benefits come to those who carefully consider what is said. The Bible is replete with people being criticized. 

The Bible does not say anything about people mocking Noah and his family while they were building the ark, you have to assume given the situation, that people ridiculed what they were doing.  Then there is Nehemiah. He got the king to see his point of view. He got all the materials he needed. And he inspired the people to get to work. Then came the discouraging insults: “Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews,saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!” (Nehemiah 4:1-4)

Jesus was ridiculed by everyone present during His crucifixion. The crowds cried “Crucify Him!” before Pilate. The soldiers beat and mocked Him. People who passed by Him hanging on the cross hurled their insults at Jesus. The religious leaders mocked Him. Even the criminals who were dying beside the Lord threw in their own ridicule  Handling criticism and ridicule with grace is possible because Jesus portrayed it and He’s our example to follow.

Something wonderful happens when we take on an attitude of grace toward people who have been malicious or judgmental or spiteful toward us: their criticism can’t affect or change us. We understand that the problem is with them, and not with us. So, instead of being offended and hurt, we are free to joyfully minister forgiveness and grace into that person’s life. The result is that instead of the unfair criticism succeeding in tearing us down, it actually serves to build us up, spiritually and emotionally, as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Every rebuke is an opportunity from God. It’s a chance to let your Christian character shine by showing love to your critic. If he is angrily attacking you, your respect and kindness become a powerful testimony. Criticism is also an occasion to humble yourself and accept the Lord’s correction.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. How should you respond when your faith and beliefs are ridiculed?
  2. What can we do differently this week when faced with criticism?