Perhaps you have heard the old story of the pastor who was asked by a friend visiting from out of town, “How is your church doing?” The pastor said, “Oh, poorly. Very poorly. But, praise the Lord, none of the other churches in the area are doing any better than we are!”
It is sad but true that there is often a competitive spirit among churches. Sometimes even marketing strategies are employed in an attempt to lure members away from one fellowship and into another. Part of that can be explained as old-fashioned, selfish greed. If the culture buys the lie that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” then the church can buy into it as well, and just substitute pew-sitters for toys. But the danger is that in the midst of trying to build a huge enterprise, we can easily lose sight of what the church is really supposed to be. A huge church can fail just like a small church can fail: by losing its vision and sense of purpose. A tiny church can be a booming success by keeping the main thing the main thing: God and His glory.
Oh, dear people, you must remember this: the church is not a business venture. It has purposes that go way beyond widgets and sales charts and daily averages. The church is not a college. It boasts of results that the greatest college president in the world cannot even dream of attaining. The church is not here today and gone tomorrow, like Bear Stearns or Circuit City. The church is not in danger of losing its relevance to the culture, like those who built gramophones or who designed eight-track tape technology.
Despite the Richard Dawkins delusions and those of other modern atheists, the church is here to stay because its builder is from everlasting to everlasting. Which begs the question: how can anyone who knows Christ have convinced himself that a Christian doesn’t need the church? As if the body and the head can be separated, and that’s ok?
The amazing truth from Scripture, which we are to take literally, says it plainly: the church is the body of Christ, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” No business, no college, no political party, no institution of any kind can make that claim. Christ is the head of the church. And the church displays the fullness of Christ to the earth. We cheapen the purpose and the calling of the church when we market it. We bring dishonor to the name of Christ when we compete with one another or when we run the latest gimmick to try to fill the church. God fills it. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in trying to do something only God can do. In the first place, it is foolish because I simply cannot build the church. In the second place, it is deadly for anyone to think that he can and to say something like, “Excuse me, Lord, but I need to help you with your church. Step aside and watch this, God.”
How is the church doing? It seems like we are losing the battle. It looks like we need to resort to gimmicks and marketing in order to draw a crowd. It appears that the church is irrelevant and needs to give in and give up. That’s only because we are looking around or looking down. Look up! Look at the head of the church, Jesus Christ, and be encouraged. He has already won.
A famous preacher visited a nursing home and greeted the people who were very glad to see him. Many recognized him and called him by name. One lady did not, and seemed unimpressed with the man. He smiled at her warmly and asked, “Do you know who I am?” She patted his hand and said, “No, honey, but if you go to the Front Desk, they can tell you who you are.”
I share that story because I want to tell you three things I learned this year in my studies. And though these may be familiar to you, let’s be honest with ourselves: Our memories are not getting stronger with age. We need constant reminders.
Be strong and courageous.
That’s the word I heard God speak to my heart last Jan. 12 as I prepared to preach in a church in Bocachica, Colombia. I knew that was from Joshua 1, so I turned there and read this: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I was prepared to challenge the men that morning to take the God-given initiative to disciple their children, but at the moment I was having all kinds of doubts and fears. ‘Is this the right message?’ That’s what was whirling around in my mind until God cut through it all with the Sword of the Spirit and said, “Be strong and courageous.” As I pondered that word, I believe He was saying to me, “This is the message that I have been and will be speaking through you to men.” I got up in the strength of that encouragement and preached the message of Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” When I finished the message I gave an invitation to all who wanted to be ‘Ephesians 6 men’ to come forward for a time of prayer. By God’s grace, the front of the church was filled with those who responded.
Power comes from God.
On March 7 this year, we lost power at our house, along with about 50,000 others in Alamance County. I was thankful for a generator that kept the lights and the freezer on for the
60 hours the power was off. But mostly I was thankful for Daisy Pace and her strong encouragement from the Lord. This 7-year-old marched right up to me that Sunday morning, when we were still waiting for power, and said, “Papa said we didn’t lose power. That comes from God. We just lost electricity.” Her wise Papa taught her that, and then she taught it to me.
Pursue the Lord.
Oswald Chambers said, “A life of intimacy with God is characterized by joy.” Not having much joy? Check your closeness to God. Not sure why you don’t feel close to Him? J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be. Both Scripture and experience teach that it is we, not God, who determines the degree of intimacy with Him that we enjoy.” The Lord reminded me that the means of grace He has given us to pursue Him include reading the Bible, prayer, and loving the body of Christ in a local church. Most of all, we are to pursue Him the way we first pursued our wives, or our husbands.
I pray these reminders fill you with encouragement as you enter 2015!
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics, based on Biblical principles, in various institutions. One place they visited was a large orphanage. It was nearing the holidays, and they introduced the orphans to the traditional Christmas story for the first time. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, and that Jesus was born in a stable and placed in the manger.
Throughout the story, the children sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
As a follow-up activity, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was also given a small square of paper, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips and carefully laid in the manger for straw. Small pieces of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket.
As they made their way around the room to observe the children, one of the Americans noted that all went well until he got to the table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As the American looked at the little boy’s manger, he was startled to see not one, but two babies lying there. Quickly, he called for the translator to ask the boy why he had reconstructed the story in this way.
Misha spoke through the translator and very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story and said that when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at him and asked if he had a place to stay. Misha told Jesus that he had no mama or papa, and no place to stay. Then Jesus told Misha that he could stay with him. Misha said he couldn’t stay with Jesus, because he didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But Misha told the translator that he wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so he thought about what he had that maybe he could use for a gift. Then he had an idea.
He asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told Misha that would be the best gift anybody had ever given him. “So,” Misha said, “I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him — for always.”
As Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed. The little orphan boy had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him — for always.
This manger scene was different. But it fits right in with the story of Christ’s birth. As the Bible says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Did you get that? You and I are orphans, but Jesus has come to adopt us.
I don’t know what you got for Christmas, but it doesn’t compare with what the Christ of Christmas has for you.
Here’s the name above every name in Great Britain this year: Muhammad. A survey conducted by a parenting website has declared the name Muhammad to be the most popular name for baby boys in Britain, surpassing previous favorites, Oliver and Jack. Muhammad jumped 27 spots from last year to claim the top spot on the list of the 100 most popular baby boy names for 2014.
That may be so. But, the name that is above every name has been given by God to Jesus. “You shall call His name Jesus,” the angel said to Joseph, “for He will save His people from their sins.” It is a name that is set apart, even by those who don’t believe in Him. Philip Yancey wrote, “Today, people even use Jesus’ name to curse by. How strange it would sound if, when a businessman missed a golf putt, he yelled, ‘Thomas Jefferson!’ or if a plumber screamed ‘Mahatma Gandhi!’ when his pipe wrench mashed a finger. We cannot get away from this man Jesus.” Or from His name.
But Jesus’ name in His day would have been as ordinary then as Bob or Joe is today. This was a time of a revival of Jewish pride, and parents were naming their children after the heroes of the Old Testament again. So Mary was named after Miriam, Moses’ sister. Joseph was named after one of the patriarchs. And even the name “Jesus” was a form of the Old Testament name, Joshua, which means, “He shall save.” So the thought that someone named Jesus could be the Messiah was unthinkable. For people raised in that time and in that tradition, Phillip Yancey wrote, it would have been scandalous to even consider that someone named “Jesus” could possibly be the Son of God. Jesus was just a man; He was Mary’s oldest boy, a carpenter who grew up in Nazareth, for goodness’ sake!
Paul wrote, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him (Jesus) and given Him the name that is above every name.” Sinclair Ferguson argues that Paul was making a clear connection between the name Jesus and the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Isaiah wrote 700 years before Christ, “Truly you are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. … For thus says the Lord …’I am the Lord, and there is no other’ … And there is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. … To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
Here’s the point: God is the only Savior, God says of Himself in Isaiah. Jesus, says Paul, is that Savior. God is the Lord before whom every knee will bow and every tongue confess, God says in Isaiah. And Jesus, says Paul, is that Lord.
This is why the birth of Christ divides time, as well as nations, even families. At His first appearance, Jesus hid Himself in plain sight, as a babe in a manger. At His next appearance, He will split the skies as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will not come, hat in hand, asking for us to “please accept Him.” He never did that in His first coming. When He returns, it will be to consummate God’s perfect plan for all of mankind and judge the world in righteousness.
“When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found, Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”
May Christ alone and His righteousness alone be yours this Christmas.
When I was growing up, I used to set out rabbit gums. They were wooden boxes with a trap door; the animal would smell the bait, enter the box, hit a stick that was connected to the door and the trap would slam shut. Every morning before the school bus came, I would run down in the woods and check my traps. I can’t tell you how many possums I caught. I can tell you how many rabbits. One. They’re just too smart. But nobody ever accused a possum of being smart. Ugly, yes. Slow, yes. But smart? Why do you think there’s so much free possum meat on the highways and byways?
So, let’s suppose I go on a campaign to “Save the Possums.” Somebody is already committed to saving the whales and the snails and the males. I want to save the possums, but how am I going to do that? Let’s say I realize that the only way to save the whole possum race is to become one. I somehow add to my human essence the essence of possum, and believe me, you won’t find that fragrance at Belk’s, and I come in the likeness of a possum. I travel down, way down, down to possumland, where those critters live. Where will I find those possums so I can save them? Well, I know I can find most of them waiting by the side of the road, watching for cars to come so they can run out in front of them. So I would go to them and speak possum to them, pleading with them to change their ways. “Look!,” I would say, “you don’t have to do this. Step away from the road and that oncoming transfer truck and follow me back to the woods. That’s where we will find the possums with three or more brain cells left, frolicking in a way that only possums can.”
What do you think? Would it work? I don’t know, but I can assure you that I am not interested in that plan at all. I can think of little worse than becoming a possum.
Friends, as greasy and distasteful as it might be for us to consider trading in human form for possum posture, that pales in comparison to what Jesus did when He left glory and put on humanity, coming in the likeness of a man to save us. He was and is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made,” as stated in the Nicene Creed. There is no way our finite minds can begin to comprehend how high He was and therefore how low He had to come.
There’s something else about my possum-pretending that pleads for pointing out. It would not do for me to just become a possum and implore my furry kinfolk to change their sneaky and destructive ways. I would have to somehow give my life in exchange for theirs. Just as it was not enough for Jesus just to come and live a good life and show us how to “be better people.” Jesus Christ did not come to earth to be our example; He came to be our Savior and our Lord. To accomplish that purpose, Jesus was born to die. He said of Himself, “The Son of Man must suffer many things … and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
That little baby, born long ago in a manger in Bethlehem, did not come to make bad people good or good people better. He came to make dead people live.
I heard Frank Turek say at Elon a few years ago that the greatest miracle ever performed was creation, because God made something out of nothing. Others say the greatest miracle of all time was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, others cast their vote for the incarnation. Wayne Grudem wrote, “It is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become a man and join Himself to a human nature forever so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.” We can disagree about which of the three events in history is the greatest miracle, but the incarnation is amazing and glorious, and worthy of our study and attention. May I say also that I take issue with those Christians who refuse to acknowledge Christmas because of all the arguments they muster:
Dec. 25 is not the actual day Jesus was born, there are pagan celebrations connected with Christmas, it’s gotten too commercial or any number of other reasons. We understand those arguments, but we also understand that the incarnation is a fact, a real event, and we celebrate that! It is the birth of the Messiah, the coming of our Savior that we celebrate on Christmas.
Philippians 2:6-11 is considered by many to be the greatest doctrinal statement in the Bible relative to the person of Christ. It is called the “kenosis” passage because of the word used in verse 7: He “emptied Himself.” I wish we could really grasp with our understanding how high He was and how low He came. But there’s no way we can. It’s like asking your dog to understand Shakespeare, when you’re still working on trying to make him understand “no.” Or, “be quiet.” But there is much we can know, even with our limited, finite minds, and the plain truth in the Bible is that Jesus, who always was and is coequal with God, took on human flesh in order to die for us on the cross.
It is precisely because the incarnation is essential to our faith that it has been in the crosshairs of heresy from the third century. Arius proposed in 320 A.D. that only God the Father was eternal and that He produced Jesus Christ out of nothing as His “first great creation.” This heresy was refuted by the Council of Nicaea that produced the Nicene Creed, and which states in part, We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
Sadly, the heresy of Arianism lives on today with people who practice the Unitarian, Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness religions, among others who deny that Jesus was and is coeternal with God.
Why is this important? Because the incarnation of Christ is essential to our salvation. And because the understanding of what Jesus did by leaving glory and becoming a man is essential to our own humility. Jesus was equal with God. But He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” He laid aside the independent exercise of His divine attributes and was born in a manger.
“Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”
That’s why we celebrate.
When Ben Carson spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast last year, he told a story about a very successful businessman who liked to buy exotic gifts for his mother on Mother’s Day. One year he was so excited because he found these birds that had been trained. They could sing, they could dance, they could even talk. He bought two of them and sent them to his mother. He called her on Mother’s Day and asked her how she liked the birds he sent. “They was good,” she replied. “No, mother, you didn’t eat those birds,” her son said. “Those birds costs $5,000 apiece. They could sing, they could dance, they could even talk!” His mother said, “Well, they shoulda’ said something.”
A silly story that makes a point. We need to speak up. Dr. Carson was using the story to illustrate the danger of political correctness. I want to use it to underscore a different problem. OK, you ask, about what should we speak up?
In her book, “Twelve Baskets of Crumbs,” Elisabeth Elliot writes, “Tell it like it is’ is the watchword today. But suppose …it’s actually beautiful? Suppose the clerk who waits on you happens to be the most gracious one you’ve ever encountered? Tell them. Tell them now.” We need to speak up when someone deserves our praise and thanks. OK, so let me ask you this. Who always deserves our thanks and praise?
If your answer is “God,” go to the head of the class. We should speak up and give thanks to God because He is our creator and our savior. We exist only because He made us, and we find our greatest joy and only hope in knowing Him through His son, Jesus. A thankful heart is powerful medicine. A thankless heart, on the other hand, starts a terrifying downward spiral.
Take a moment and read Romans 1. In the second half of the chapter, Paul describes what I would call the pathology of a debased mind. He traces the steps men and women take to get to the place finally where they are “given up” by God to live life completely on their own terms, and they are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness (and) evil.” Where does this deadly journey begin? The Bible says it starts when someone suppresses the truth about God, who has plainly revealed His existence in creation: “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Instead, they do not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him. The decline continues as their thinking becomes futile and their foolish heart is darkened. Then, though they claim to be wise (enlightened!), they become fools. Next, they exchange the glory of God for images or imaginations or other substitutes for God. As a result, God gives them over to run after the lusts of their own hearts, and the downward spiral continues and gets worse.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the great news. That downward spiral can be reversed. Stopped in its tracks and turned around. Start by doing the opposite of what the text describes. Honor God as God and give Him thanks. Your thinking will be clearer and your heart will be filled with His light. You will grow in God’s wisdom and learn to recognize and renounce your own foolishness. And God will bring you into close fellowship with Himself.
Ann Voskamp wrote, “When you’re looking for joy, you will always find it hiding in your gratitude.” Take it out of hiding. Give thanks to God. Say it out loud!
I remember it like it was yesterday. It is my fourth-grade class with Mrs. Wade, and time for recess. Every day, it is the same. When the teacher announces recess, I am at once fearful and elated, excited and filled with dread at the same time. Why? I am excited and elated because I get to go outside and play, one of my passions even to this day. I am fearful and filled with dread because I am one of the smallest boys in the class, and I know that recess means kickball. I know that kickball means that the two biggest boys in the class will announce that they are captains and start choosing their teams. The girls will stand off to the side and giggle as the boys make their selections from among the rest of us young pre-pubescent males who are standing there, trying to look tough and athletic. Not me. I am standing behind a row of taller boys, and occupying my full attention by gazing at my right foot. Anyone who is observing this whole scene would have to write in his notes: “The short, skinny kid, Fox, is staring at his right tennis shoe like it’s his job. What is going on with him?”
What is going on is that I know what will happen. Every single boy on that field will be chosen until there are two left, me and this little kid named Albert. Then the two self-appointed captains will argue over who gets me and who gets Albert. The girls on the sideline, in the meantime, are whispering to each other and giggling into their hands. I am dying. The selection process is finally over, and the game begins, and I can relax and go hard after every ball. I always try to make up with hustle and effort what I lack in size and skill.
When Jesus came to his hometown to preach for the first time after his ministry had begun, he opened the Old Testament to Isaiah and read a passage about the coming Messiah that included this statement: “He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” This is not an economic designation, this word for ‘poor.’ Rather, it is a word that describes “those who for any number of reasons were relegated to positions outside the boundaries of God’s people.” Jesus came to preach to people who knew they were outside of God’s boundaries (all of us are) and who knew they were lost and needed a Savior (all of us do).
I am back on the kickball field, and I expect to be picked last. In terms of size and skill, I am poor, outside the boundaries of those who would be included in the athletic category. And then one of the captains overlooks a whole row of bigger, stronger boys who are smug in their expectation of being picked. He finds me through the crowd, standing on the back row, looking at my feet, preparing myself to deal with the shame of being picked last or next to last. And he says, “I’ll take Mark.”
Of course, it never happened to me in kickball, I still got picked last, but it did happen to me with the Lord. He saw past all my sinful pride, rebellion, and spiritual poverty and said, “I’ll take Mark.” He preaches the gospel to the poor, to the least likely, to the lowly. He preaches good news to people like you and me.
That is cause for all of us to have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Every now and then someone will send an email to the church that speaks so eloquently to all of us that we end up reading it several times — and then saving it in a folder to refer to later. That’s what happened last week with something that Becky sent to us. She wrote it after a high school friend of her husband’s died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack and left a wife and a child behind. He had loved well as a faithful husband and father, attending to the little things in his family that made it healthy and strong, not putting off the important things as so many of us tend to do. Here’s part of what Becky wrote to her church body to encourage us:
“I think sometimes we do wait for that perfect amount of savings to go on a date night, get married, have a baby, tithe, share, give … Not even related to money, we often wait for perfect timing to do something special, say I love you, apologize, eat dessert … to tell someone about Jesus. The fact is, we are not promised tomorrow and if we live too carefully and cautiously, we are going to miss out on some really great things that God has for us. It’s not about what’s in our bank accounts or homes, what we have or don’t have, how old or young we are. It really comes down to relationships: our relationship with Christ and our relationship with those around us. If I am alive to see my husband, parent, friend, child take their final breath on this earth, I pray I will be like (our friend who lost her husband). Heartbroken — yes, but so very thankful to love and be loved fully, with no regrets! That I wouldn’t be longing for one more day to spend on apologies and do-overs, but to love and laugh, whether it is a special day like an anniversary or birthday, or it is just a typical Monday with all the normal things that need to get done. Every day is a gift! I know I am thankful for this day that I get to live and love.”
Becky’s letter reminded me of a poem by Edgar Guest, entitled “Tomorrow.”
He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or braver than he
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew, Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do
Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today, And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he’d say
The greatest of workers this man would have been
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
But the fact is he died and he faded from view, And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do
Don’t be that guy. If your life is so busy that you don’t have time to develop strong and healthy relationships, especially in your own marriage and family, then you are too busy. Stop putting off what’s most important, especially your own soul’s need for forgiveness.
We only have today.
“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
When my children were little, we would read good books together several nights a week. We spent time with Peter and Lucy in Narnia, with Laura Ingalls on the Minnesota prairie and we even walked the battlefields of France with Sgt. Alvin York.
We also read about Daniel in the lion’s den, David and Goliath, and three Hebrew boys thrown into a fiery furnace who lived to tell about it. These stories, of course, come from the best book ever written. Our children never got tired of hearing the stories of daring and adventure that we find in the Bible. There we came face to face with ordinary people like ourselves who did extraordinary things for God. Just this week, I wished that my children were little again so we could curl up on the sofa, sip hot chocolate and watch the fire while we read Acts 27.
It’s a sailor’s tale, a tale of the high seas, and Paul, the prisoner, on his way to Rome where he will stand before Caesar, is right in the middle of it. He has two traveling companions, Aristarchus and Luke. The other 273 people on board consist of the owner of the ship, the captain and crew of the ship (sailors), and the soldiers who are charged with transporting Paul and other prisoners to Rome, led by a man named Julius, a centurion. And “some other prisoners,” most likely being transported to Rome to provide entertainment in the coliseum as they are chased down and killed by lions. Sailors, soldiers and slaves all thrown together by God for a most unlikely adventure. It is a study in itself just to observe the tension between the sailors and the soldiers, as Army and Navy each take a turn at elevating self-protection above sworn duty. The sailors, at one point, lowered the lifeboat, pretending to be putting out anchors, but were in fact trying to escape. Then later, we find the soldiers planning to kill the prisoners to make sure that none of them escaped. And of course, all of this is taking place in the middle of a hurricane and this ancient vessel is tossed around the Mediterranean like it’s a toy. The climax of the drama comes after 14 days of being battered by the storm, and Luke writes, “all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” When the storm had started two weeks earlier, the ship lost its way, blown off course, away from the island of Crete and into the middle of the sea. The men must have lost their appetite, for they had gone without food for 14 days as they did everything in their power to save the ship. Do you see the progression, the downward spiral? Lost their way. Lost their appetite. Lost their hope. And it is precisely here when the character and the leadership of Paul have their greatest impact.
As you read the story to your children, see if you can find the three things Paul said to the other men on the ship to encourage them not to give up. See how God used the least likely character on board to lead, simply because he kept his head while everyone else was losing theirs. See how a plot to have Paul murdered is discovered and foiled. Mostly, see how God intervenes in the affairs of men and shows them His grace.
A quiet evening with your family … hot chocolate … a warm fire … an amazing tale that really happened … a gracious God.
It doesn’t get any better than that.