Week 2 - Grace
Gifts of Grace
Christmas is by far one of my most favorite times of the year. The music, the lights, the trees, ornaments, and Christmas coffee at Starbucks - it’s hard not to find even a small amount of joy in this season. One of my favorite parts of Christmas has always been finding the perfect gifts for all my loved ones. Watching their faces light up when they open those presents sets my heart on fire.
Do you want to know something interesting about me though? I feel extremely uncomfortable when people give ME gifts. I love to give them, but to get them and accept them is such a different process for me.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you love to spread joy but there is a place in your heart that God continues to work on, that place where a small voice says you don’t deserve sweet gifts?
Have you ever felt that way about God’s Grace? Now there’s a difficult gift. Both to give and to receive. We’re all guilty of it. We don’t think we deserve it, and we certainly don’t think our friend who has wronged us deserves it.
Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God.”
Grace is a GIFT from GOD. It’s not ours to earn and there are no works we must do to earn it! How convicting are those words? When we don’t accept grace for what it is, we are actually rejecting a gift from God.
So, here’s the challenge I have set for myself: (maybe you’ll consider joining me) much like our faith is believing in things we hope for and cannot see (Hebrews 11:1), can we practice accepting and giving grace especially in the tough moments where we feel as though it hasn’t been EARNED nor DESERVED? Along with all the other gifts you’ll get this season can we practice freely accepting God’s grace?
Student Ministry Coordinator Frisco West
What is the definition of God’s grace? In the New Testament, grace means God’s love in action towards people who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves. Grace means God sending His only Son to descend into hell on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven.
(God) hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Not one of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. As a Christian, we know that God will forgive and bless us in His glory. At times in our lives though, we may not feel worthy of His grace and love. However, we must redirect our doubts and worry with such comforts in knowing God will grace us with His holy presence and love in our lives. How amazing! We are loved, we are sinners, we are His children, and we are forgiven. We must hold dear to such in the trying times. He did it all for you!
God had blessed us with His grace long before we were a twinkle in our parent’s eyes or even before Jesus was born. However, with the birth of Christ, He knew that His son would show love and compassion to the sinners and outcasts. People who may seem undeserving of such grace to our naked, human eye. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.”
Jesus’ birth would bring the most amazing grace to us. The Christmas story was embedded in the midst of real people, going through real problems, living real, everyday lives, people who may seem unlikely. God’s grace was shown to the Virgin Mary. She seemed the unlikely character to carry our Lord and Savior and bring him into this sinful world. Mary questioned God’s will, asking “How can this be?” She had to trust in the Word of God and trust that He would know best.
This Christmas season brings much joy, happiness, sadness, and anxiety to many, so please keep that in mind when crossing paths with others. Extend your own grace and compassion. That one person may be going through something quite significant and your extension of grace, your smile, or a hug from you could change the course of their day or even their life. Be an extension of His amazing grace this Christmas season and in the new year to come.
Child Care Coordinator Frisco West
What Grace Does
John 1:12-14 - Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In the time that Jesus was born, there was a lot anticipation of the Messiah being born to set up a new throne, a new Kingdom order that would overthrow the Roman Empire, and set the Jewish people free. Let’s be honest, we would all love Jesus to come down and beat up the people that hurt us.
When you stop and reflect on the innocence of a child being born helpless as an infant, yet within that same child holding the purpose to redeem all of humanity, it really speaks to the GRACE of God. God gave the world a baby when they wanted a king. You never see Jesus using force and power to change what he does not approve of. He uses the total opposite of what the world expected to show his grace even to the ones that were hated most.
Grace extends love where there is hate.
Grace extends forgiveness where there is pain.
Grace sees where there is death there is potential for life.
Grace sees brokenness as an opportunity for healing.
Grace sees you and me in our worst condition as valuable enough to die for.
Questions for Reflection:
Where have you seen God’s grace show up in your life recently?
Where do you feel like you need to extend God’s grace to someone?
Campus Pastor Frisco West
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ!
John 1:14, 16, 17 (NKJV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
NLT says “He was full of love and faithfulness”
V. 15: John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.”
V. 16: And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
NLT says “he brought us one gracious blessing after another.”
V. 17: For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
NLT says “God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.”
As all the wonder and excitement that comes with this special season, my prayer for you is that you would take time to remember that God’s grace came through Jesus and because of that grace His unfailing love and faithfulness we can extend it to others.
Who is that someone this season that you can extend God’s grace to?
Early Childhood Director Frisco West
So the Word became flesh (human) and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love (GRACE) and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
As a Pastor, I would much rather talk about grace theologically than practice it physically. Grace is a beautiful idea and an excruciatingly difficult action. It asks for nothing and requires everything. I love the way the New Living Translation interprets John’s words when he writes concerning Jesus: “He was full of UNFAILING LOVE…” An act of grace is perfectly characterized by those two words: unfailing love.
When I remember the grace my parents had for me as a rebellious teenager, I see unfailing love. When I watch someone in our church grace someone with money to get through the holiday season, I see unfailing love. And when I think about the Son of God, not counting equality with God as something to cling to, and coming to the earth in the form a delicate, fragile, and vulnerable child…a child whose ultimate job is to die an innocent death for the sins of everyone past, present, and future…I see unfailing love.
We don’t really know if someone is full of good or bad until the pressure of circumstances pushes it out of them. Look at Jesus’ words during the darkest hours of his life:
As he is praying in the garden concerning the crucifixion looming in front of him:
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Lk. 22:42)
As the people he came to die for nail him to a cross:
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34)
What was in Jesus, came out of Jesus? Unfailing love.
When was the last time you asked God to give you his brand of unfailing love? The many times I’ve tried to extend the amount of love I am comfortable with, it has fallen far short of what is required. I need his brand of love in order to give people what they need: a love that never fails.
Who in your world requires your unfailing love most?
Unfailing love doesn't exist within an unforgiving heart. Who do you need to forgive in order to receive and give an unfailing kind of love?
What has God given you that you need to give to others? Is it something physical item or money? Is it your words or your time?
Prayers you can pray:
God is ready to give to someone who is ready to give, so pray this simple prayer: “God, give me your unfailing love so I can give it to others.”
“God, give me a good story."
Student Pastor Frisco West
Choose Your Lens
“'You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:1
Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of Christmas. The lights, the music, and the “cheer” that people spread has never sat well with me for some reason. I’ve been asked many times, “what about all these things keeps you from enjoying the season?” and I really didn’t know how to answer that question…until this year. It took awhile, but I finally realized the reason I get all Grinchy around Christmas.
When I was young my family went through a lot of pain, whether that being divorces or distance between family members. Eleven months out of the year my family was a mess. But somehow every December, we pulled it together to put on a good face. However, as soon as we got on the other side of December 25, things went right back to the way they always were. I grew tired of acting this way over the years, and it subconsciously stained my entire view of the holiday season.
This year I decided to look at it all different though. I decided to look at things not through the lens of the past, but through the lens of God’s grace. I decided not to focus on my family’s false happiness in the past, and instead appreciated how happy they are now. We’ve gone through some difficult seasons to get there, but God has been faithful. I no longer have to relive the past frustrations I dealt with as a child, but I can now find true happiness during the holiday season. The grace I needed to enjoy this season, is the grace I get to give to everyone in my life.
What moments do you need to stop reliving this holiday, because God has given us the grace to forgive and move past?
Grace will catch you
One of the greatest acts of God’s grace was recorded here in the book of Acts where a man named Saul was stopped in his tracks by God himself.
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. - Acts 9:1-9
Here is what I take from this passage: God’s grace will catch you and I in the middle of our sin before we destroy ourselves. At times we see accountability as punishment when it's really God’s grace reaching out to give us another chance.
Just like Saul (who became Paul following this temporary blindness), we too will experience a change after we encounter God’s grace. Have you ever allowed God to change something in you that caught someone's attention? Maybe they told you that you don’t seem like the same person? That is grace in motion.
Where have you seen God's gracious accountability in your life that you interpreted as punishment?
Who is in your life that you need to extend accountability to in love that could spark a change and give them a second chance?
When have you stopped to look at what God has done in your life have and recognized how he has changed you? Celebrate this change today, because that is why Jesus came.
Campus Pastor/Frisco West