Continuing with our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, we have another post filled with hope for you this holiday season. 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For some this means absolute joy, for others it’s a more difficult time of year. I understand both sentiments—as I have had both throughout the years.

No matter where you are this time of year, or how you feel about it, I have a hope-filled message for you.

Right from Jesus’ birth, we see how God likes to surprise. He doesn’t choose the richest woman in the land to give birth to Jesus, but instead one of the impoverished. The angel Gabriel says to Mary:

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in the womb and will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus. This one will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:28–38 LEB).

Mary’s ultimate reply, after learning that she, a virgin, will conceive miraculously: “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 LEB).

Mary speaks truth. These are words each of us need to hear today: May we act according to God’s will, so attached to him that it resembles a slave following his or her master. May God’s will happen according to his word.

But these are not just contemplative words—they are words of gratitude and joy. Although Mary may be feeling perplexed, she is in wonderment. She sees that great and wonderful things are coming (Luke 1:29, 34). And even when we are perplexed, we should look to God in wonderment too—knowing that he will do great and mighty things.

Christmas is meant to remind us of the great and wonderful things coming our way. We are meant to celebrate the occasion with pure joy. We should contemplate both what God did by becoming flesh—forever marrying humanity to himself—but also how he chose to become flesh.

God could have chosen a rich young woman or a queen. He could have chosen to be born into wealth and power. But that’s not what God chose. God chose a humble and honorable woman. He chose someone from poverty, who had no power at all.

And in this act, and so many others in Jesus’ life, we see that this is really what the Christian journey is about: a walk with God, in humility, grace, and love.

Christmas reminds us of all this. But Christmas also reminds us of Mary’s words about Jesus:

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced greatly in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his female slave, for behold, from now on all generations will consider me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for generation after generation to those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has dispersed the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled those who are hungry with good things, and those who are rich he has sent away empty-handed. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46–56 LEB).

This is what God does. This is who God is. This is what God is about.

May you be filled with joy today. May the power of the living Christ transform you and work through you. May you realize who God really is, and act according to his ways—lifting up the lowly and feeding the hungry.

This article was previously published under the title, "A Song of Gratitude for Christmas Day: Joy No Matter What."

As we enter the New Year, it’s easy to look back at the last year and think, “What if …” but is that what God wants for our life? Regret is a fickle friend. I think there is a better friend to be found.

Regret assumes all of the knowledge of today, much of which wasn’t available when past decisions were made. And as such, “regret” is never accurate. Regret also leads to self-pity—and “self-pity” only tells lies.

But there are some helpful things about regret—the self-reflective nature of regret can be used for good. So what if we had the self-reflection without the self-pity and without regret itself? What if, right now, each of us took the things we wish could have been different and turned them into positive change?

Although God himself is unchanging in character—he is no fickle person—he is prone to make changes. God knows that things must be different to be better.

We see this in the life of Moses; Moses’ entire journey starts with his deep sadness about the enslavement of the Hebrew people (Exodus 2:11). Moses first responds incorrectly, with taking the life of a persecutor. Filled with worry, and likely regret, Moses runs to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). And this is where the story could end—with Moses living out his life as a fugitive. But God wants something from Moses—he wants to redeem Moses and use his life for good. Yahweh says to Moses:

“Surely I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry of distress because of their oppressors, for I know their sufferings. And I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from this land to a good and wide land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, … look, the cry of distress of the Israelites has come to me, and also I see the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, and you must bring my people, the Israelites, out from Egypt” (Exodus 3:7–10 LEB).

Moses believes God, but knows the severity of these words. He understands that the task of freeing the Hebrew slaves will be incredibly difficult. Moses says to God:

“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out from Egypt?’ And [Yahweh] said, ‘Because I am with you, and this will be the sign for you that I myself have sent you: When you bring the people out from Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain’” (Exodus 3:11–12 LEB).

Moses’ life will not be one full of regret after all, but instead one of advocating on behalf of the oppressed. And God himself will be with Moses. And today, God himself wants to be with you. He wants to change the world through your life (John 17).

The New Year brings with it the thought of new opportunity. Indeed, each day is new, but the feeling of a New Year helps us to make commitments and take actions. Some of these actions are fueled by regret, while others are fueled by desire. But what if our new commitments were instead fueled by our love for our God?

We have an opportunity, right here and right now, to make a decision to walk alongside the oppressed. To be a people who, like Moses, lift up those on the underside of power—those without a voice. And we have a God who wants to see that happen.

Our God hears the cries of the hurting. What can you do this coming year to walk alongside those who desperately in need of an advocate? How can you change your lifestyle to better align it with God’s ways? Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit working through you this year to transform lives. And imagine all the glory you could give to Jesus when that happens.

Here is the New Year. May God renew you. And may God renew our world. Let’s make this Jesus’ economy, based on self-sacrifice and love.

 

Want to get involved with helping the oppressed right now? Join Jesus’ Economy in renewing Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus. You can also partner with Jesus’ Economy by donating your time or birthday to making the world a better place.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. For some this means absolute joy, for others it’s a more difficult time of year. I understand both sentiments—as I have had both throughout the years.

No matter where you are this time of year, or how you feel about it, I have a hope-filled message for you.

Right from Jesus’ birth, we see how God likes to surprise. He doesn’t choose the richest woman in the land to give birth to Jesus, but instead one of the impoverished. The angel Gabriel says to Mary:

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. … Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in the womb and will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus. This one will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. … The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the one to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:28–38 LEB).

Mary’s ultimate reply, after learning that she, a virgin, will conceive miraculously: “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 LEB).

Mary speaks truth. These are words each of us need to hear today: May we act according to God’s will, so attached to him that it resembles a slave following his or her master. May God’s will happen according to his word.

But these are not just contemplative words—they are words of gratitude and joy. Although Mary may be feeling perplexed, she is in wonderment. She sees that great and wonderful things are coming (Luke 1:29, 34). And even when we are perplexed, we should look to God in wonderment too—knowing that he will do great and mighty things.

Christmas is meant to remind us of the great and wonderful things coming our way. We are meant to celebrate the occasion with pure joy. We should contemplate both what God did by becoming flesh—forever marrying humanity to himself—but also how he chose to become flesh.

God could have chosen a rich young woman or a queen. He could have chosen to be born into wealth and power. But that’s not what God chose. God chose a humble and honorable woman. He chose someone from poverty, who had no power at all.

And in this act, and so many others in Jesus’ life, we see that this is really what the Christian journey is about: a walk with God, in humility, grace, and love.

Christmas reminds us of all this. But Christmas also reminds us of Mary’s words about Jesus:

“My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced greatly in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his female slave, for behold, from now on all generations will consider me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for generation after generation to those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has dispersed the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled those who are hungry with good things, and those who are rich he has sent away empty-handed. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, just as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46–56 LEB).

This is what God does. This is who God is. This is what God is about.

May you be filled with joy today. May the power of the living Christ transform you and work through you. May you realize who God really is, and act according to his ways—lifting up the lowly and feeding the hungry.

In Bihar, India, I saw the joy of Jesus transform a young lady's life. It moved me and changed me. In this video, I tell you that incredible story.

 

 

 

Help us renew Bihar, India today.

It only takes $2.94 to change someone's life in Bihar. Do me a huge favor and give $2.94 today.

12 WAYS TO LIVE THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

Christmas becomes many things it is not meant to be—commercialized, painful for those with troubled pasts, or just downright stressful. We want to help you change that this year by providing you with 12 ways that you can live the Christmas spirit.

Each day leading up to Christmas, we will share a way that you—and hopefully your friends and family too—can restore a bit of what Christmas is meant to be, a day that celebrates Jesus entering the world.

Way #1 to Live the Christmas Spirit: Care for the Church

Healthy churches can alleviate corruption in our societies, prompt us to live more like Jesus each day, and provide us with a community. God meant for us to be people that live and work together. From the very beginning we are told that we’re not meant to be alone (Genesis 2:18)—we’re meant to co-labor with others in God’s work in the world.

But for all this goodness to occur, we must each care for the church. I’m not talking about buildings—I’m talking about each of us. We, as Christ followers, are the church. There are few things that are a greater blessing than being involved in the lives of others: knowing how others feel, what we can do for them, and watching that pay dividends in their life.

What If Caring for the Church Was Global?

We should each be actively caring for people in our congregations, as well as our pastors. We must care for those locally. But what if our care for the church also extended globally?

Infographic: Caring for the Church Globally
View the full-size infographic about our church planting efforts.

 

How You Can Live the Christmas Spirit Today

Today, you can bless someone in your church by simply picking up the phone and asking them how they’re doing. Or, you could simply shoot your pastor an email, mentioning one thing you appreciate about him or her. Your effort may bring comfort to someone who is struggling—you could be the love of God someone needs to feel today.

Care for the church today. Show someone the love of Jesus. And let us know how it goes in the comments.

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It is easy to lose heart when there is so much work to be done in our world: so many to lead to Jesus and so many to help out of poverty. We can look at the situation and ask ourselves “What good can we actually do?” But in any of these moments, there is encouragement just around the corner.

Whenever I hear a story of someone in poverty truly being helped—meaning someone working with them to help them move towards sustainable living—I am joyous. It resonates and reverberates in my heart. I believe this is the case because it is a sign of God at work; it’s a reminder to me that he is turning over the evil, disorder, and pain in our world and replacing it with goodness and love.

I want you to think on this feeling and this idea when you consider helping people in need. Imagine what life is like for them. Consider the difference it makes when someone shows them love and the joy it brings. Place yourself for a moment in their position and picture how different you would feel after someone acted in accordance with God’s will to bring you love, goodness, and a sustainable livelihood.

But perhaps there is another way for you to visualize this. Think back upon a situation that made you feel helpless and distraught. Remember how you eventually made your way out of it. Recall the people who loved you in those dark moments and walked with you as you moved forward.

It’s this kind of hope that Jesus’ Economy desires to bring to the world. It’s this kind of shift in thinking and living—from sadness to joy, from despair to opportunity—that we desire to bring to the lives of others. We believe that Jesus can offer hope when there seems to be none to be found. We believe that Jesus has order and love to offer, and we want to make sure that others know that, feel that, and live in that.

Consider joining us today. Bring joy to others by donating here. One hundred percent of your donation will go where you designate.