As we head into the happiest season of the year, I am happy to report on our “Christmas Meter”: it shows that we are perfectly in tune with the reason for the season. This joyful celebration is not a magical “world away” from what we’ve been doing throughout the year. We’re constantly proclaiming the joyful message: “Unto us is born a Savior!”
We not only celebrate it in a private, personal way, but we are proclaiming it to the whole world . . . so that the people who walk in darkness may see a great light. We, of all people, are stewards not only of the message, but of the power of the Gospel.
This year has seen the Gospel dramatically advancing in danger zones like war-torn Ukraine, and in the face of deadly epidemics like Ebola in Liberia — as well as in regions where human governments try to prevent its march. We praise the Lord that in spite of the challenges and the dangers, this is also the year that our church-planting operations have passed an incredible milestone: 10,000 church plants! And we’re growing at more than 100 church plants per month!
Please know this, however: I am fully aware that I can’t do these things by myself. I can only do these things as you and I together follow the leading of the Lord and move through the open doors that He sets before us. Together, we have the privilege of participating in the ministry of reconciliation that He inaugurated on that first Christmas Day . . . a ministry He has committed to us until He comes again.
I thank God for the hundreds of thousands of people who, this year
— because of friends like you — have been able to see and hear the Good News . . . the wonderful news that Christ the Savior was born and died and rose again for them! Entire families have come to faith in the most unlikely places and in the most extreme
circumstances. Even as I write, 270 new churches are beginning in the dark and dreary depths of Africa where Ebola is killing so many!
What we’re experiencing in Liberia is — in a very real way — the “thrill of hope” that we sing of in “O Holy Night”! In the middle of the crisis, these passionate believers suddenly saw God’s plan and His part for them. They plunged in to share the offer of eternal life in Jesus. All the people seeking God’s favor — Muslims, nominal Christians, unbelievers — now have the Gospel arriving in their towns and villages! It’s the beautiful Christmas message — but we get to do this all year long!
This is Christmas: It’s not about the “holiday,” the decorations, the presents under the tree. It’s about the salvation that God sent through His Son. It’s about the Good News that peace and eternal life are available for mankind because of Jesus. In our day, as many are trying to muffle Christmas, it’s imperative that we act as the
stewards of Christmas . . . stewards of the Good News. We must speak up. We must mobilize our resources to leverage the message and its impact “into all the world”!
Yes, Christmas is a time for celebration. But it should be, even more importantly, a season of renewal of the ultimate purpose that God has established for the life of every true Christian. In the words of the apostle Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Christmas is what it’s all about all year long — and all life long! Paul wasn’t expressing an odd or unusual calling when he wrote these words. He was expressing the calling of every believer.
The One who reconciled us has committed to us the work of reconciliation — even unto the ends of the earth. (Paul gave us much of the New Testament — and he did it all while doing missions!)
How engaged are you in the true spirit of Christmas? Do you take Christmas with a “grain of salt” — or join in with gusto? Do you
focus on your friends and family — or is there room for leveraging the message of salvation beyond yourself? I don’t mean to lay a guilt trip on anyone; my heart just longs sincerely for an authentic
focus on God’s intended purpose and meaning for Christmas. It’s a meaning and purpose that occupies Him all year long! It’s a meaning and purpo se that He says should occupy all of our
year, and all of our life (2 Corinthians 5:15-20).
I think God planned Christmas to happen at the end of the year so our own year-end review can be framed by the spirit of Christmas. Christmas gives us a measuring device for evaluating our year, perhaps for making some final corrections and for setting priorities for the year ahead.
It’s also an opportunity to finish the year with an accent on the Gospel, and on God’s purposes, through year-end gifts . . . to satisfy ourselves that we’ve done all we could to advance the work of the Lord in 2014. . . . Like someone who has a brush with death — and their “life flashes before their eyes” — we have this opportunity to review and evaluate our year. Many who survive a “near miss” come to realize that they have little to show for their lives. They come away from the experience changed — transformed — determined to make a real and lasting difference in the world. Our challenge is to look at our lives clearly - without waiting for a
Many of us live in an “illusion of goodness” that keeps us from seeing the reality. We maintain a shining image of ourselves, constructed of defense mechanisms that protect us from harsh or
hurtful facts. (I have a name for my shining image of myself: (St. Manny!)
So I bring you this invitation: As we come to the end of the year, I ask you to prayerfully and objectively examine 2014 for what it was . . . and decide how you would like it to “go down in the books.” I also ask that you remember this ministry in giving. Before you retire the year, consider if there might yet be some good thing that God would have you do, in the true spirit of Christmas, toward fulfilling the priority, the noble purpose, He gave us.
As you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I believe that “all these things” will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
Would you touch Liberia with the Gospel as your answer to Ebola?
Would you stand with the Ukrainians as they courageously proclaim the Gospel under fire?
Would you build a church in Cuba in 2015?
Would you buy a mule for mountain evangelists in the island nation?
Would you sponsor five child evangelism workers in Cuba for $100 a month?
Whatever the Lord would lead you to do, it will be a beautiful “golden seal” on this dramatic year of ministry! I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I wish you and your household a merry and blessed Christmas full of the joy of the Lord! May your New Year begin with the joy of knowing that you are fulfilling your ultimate purpose in Christ!