It seems every year Christmas comes into focus a lot earlier than the year before. I have noticed that in the
flurry of activity and the anticipation of the commercial interest, Christmas gets lost in a blur of spending
and holiday activities. There is no doubt in my mind that over the years the real meaning of Christmas has
ebbed away, almost to the stage where we see it purely as eating and drinking too much and then wonder off
into the sunset for a short holiday break. Recently I read through the book of Isaiah and come across the
verses in Isaiah chapter nine; that bring a whole new meaning to what Christmas is about. In verse six it
says “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given”. The significant thing here is
that Jesus came in the most fragile and vulnerable form to this earth, to do the most incredible task of
setting free mankind from the bondage of sin and death.
In chapter seven we read this verse “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bare a son and shall call
His name Immanuel.” The wonderful thing is that Jesus was given to us as a gift. He wasn't forced
upon us; it was something that we take willingly. Often I have noticed that when you share the gospel with
someone and you say to them all you have to do is accept it by faith; they will often look at you and think
that it is very strange indeed, primarily because we as human beings feel that we have to do something before
we can receive something. Wouldn't it be very strange indeed if we received a Christmas gift from a family
member only to be told you can't receive it until you do two hours work in the garden? Immediately your
response would be, well it isn't a real gift then is it. That is why we see here the Son of God was given
to us as a gift, to be sacrificed on Calvary's cross so that we might be set free from the bondage of sin
So we need to recognise that the gift of salvation is something that is accepted by faith and not something
that is worked for. This is why we read in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through
faith and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone boast”. Notice the
emphasis of salvation as a gift. So when we look at this whole aspect of Christmas, I think it is important
for us as Christians to not only recognise that we have received the most incredible gift ever, but also to
make known this gift to everyone who is willing to call upon the name of Jesus to be saved.
Then we notice a number of other things about this Immanuel, this Saviour of the world. We notice the government
will be upon His shoulders. This tells us that Jesus will reign supreme over all governments, all thrones, all
principalities in this world. When we look to Jesus and He governs our lives, we know He does it with wisdom
and graciousness and kindness. Whatever He does achieves His divine purpose in our lives. Many of the
governments of this world have all sorts of agendas other than wise counsel and gracious dealings with their
people; we see it on the news just about every night. Then we notice that this Child that was born is in
essence God incarnate, the mighty God who reigns over all things, who can enable us to reign supreme over
the world, the flesh and the devil.
Then we see He is the everlasting Father. I love that expression Father because it talks about His loving
kindness and care for those who have yielded to Him, and have acknowledged their sin and accepted Jesus as
their Lord and Saviour. Not only does this speak about the eternal nature of salvation but it also speaks
of the eternal nature of our Heavenly Father, that He has always existed and that He reigns supreme. Then
it also says He is the Prince of Peace. Now I don't know about you but as I look at the news I see it is
filled with hatred and anger and revenge, anything but peace. I have often said to people whether they
are Christians or otherwise, that there won't be real peace until the Prince of Peace returns.
Now it is important to understand of course that there are two forms of peace that we can enjoy here and now.
There is the peace we can have with God. This is brought out for us in Romans 5:1 which says “Having
been justified by faith we now have peace with God.” The sad thing is that before we became
Christians we were literally at war with Jesus, because in our own lives we wanted to do our own thing
and run our own lives. It wasn't until we came to that place of seeing our desperate need and surrendering
to Him that we experience peace with God. Then of course there is that wonderful peace we can have day by
day as we pray to God. It says in Philippians 4:6-7 &ldqup;That we are to be anxious for nothing but
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make known your requests to God and the peace of God which
surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus”. You see friends
this is what Christmas is all about. We can have (i) peace with God and then (ii) we can have the peace
of God. No other religion or cult can offer this, because you see when Jesus died and was buried and
rose again on the third day He conquered sin and death. No other prophet, no other religious leader has
ever been able to do that; only the true and living God.
My great prayer is that at this Christmas time you will experience the true meaning of Christmas, that
the gift of salvation is just that, it is a gift that sets us free from the bondage of sin and death
and it is a gift that gives us not only peace with God but the peace of God.
Carl Carmody, Editor of Challenge
- South Africa
- Praise the Lord for the work of Multi Ministries and for the great response we are seeing to the paper in general. Praise the Lord for the great response we are getting from the prison edition of the paper. Praise the Lord for the recent visit of pastor Willie Dengler (Director of World Hope Ministries in South Africa) to Australia and we are trusting the Lord for great things as a result. Praise the Lord for the partnership we have with the Bible Society of WA and NSW as they provide us with 600 bibles per month for South Africa.
- Praise the Lord for the opportunity to assist the Open Baptist church in Gaborone to put out an insert into the Challenge paper claiming the importance of abstinence and of course combining that with the need to have a right relationship with God. Praise the Lord for Andrew and Sandra Freeman and the great work they are doing under the banner of Botswana Ministries as they help to train and equip young men and women amongst many other things.
- Praise the Lord for the work of Multi Ministries in Zimbabwe under the leadership of Jabulani Mudenda. Praise the Lord for a much better arrangement in getting the distribution of the paper happening into that country as we have struggled to get the paper across the border.
- Praise the Lord for the work of Pro Christo Global Outreach and for their Director Coen Scholtz. Their encouragement with the paper has been a real blessing and their assistance in getting the paper distributed effectively I am sure will reap a rich reward.
- Praise the Lord for the work that is going on in Malawi and for Jonathan Newell and his team who are looking to set up the printing of the paper and also arrange the distribution of it.
- Praise the Lord for Will and Ale Herndon and the work they are doing in Argentina with the Challenge newspaper. This is a huge plus effort as they are very busy in their Word of Life ministry and we hope and pray that what is done is a compliment to all the hard work they put in. We praise the Lord also for the opportunity to go into Uruguay which is predominately Atheistic in its belief but at the moment is seeing a huge amount of literature being poured into it by the Mormon church. The paper is proving to be a blessing indeed and we are grateful for that.
- North America
- Praise the Lord for the work of Doug and Mary Cornelius as they promote and develop the work of Challenge in the United States. Whilst we are still in the fledging stage we are seeing some great encouragement such as the recent promotion of the paper to the Southern Baptist Convention of Ohio and also for the upcoming State Convention for Ohio of the Southern Baptist churches next February. We praise God for all of the blessings we are seeing especially with our headquarters at Urbancrest Baptist church and the work of Tom Pendergras and his team.
- South Africa
- Pray for South Africa as we continue to develop the work. We are in real need of ongoing funds. Please pray for the many Christian farmers who give generosity to this work through putting wheat into the silo under our name. We are very dependent upon these farmers who so generously and graciously give to us.
- As you read this newsletter I will be in Botswana negotiating for a special edition of Challenge for abstinence. It is like 'True Love Waits ministry' from the United States. We would value your prayer for Andrew and Sandra Freeman and for PG who helps with the distribution of the paper.
- We are working with Pro Christo Outreach and would value your prayer for the distribution of the paper and also for the development of us in terms of the need that is in that country. Some of these countries are very Christianised but often it is a real mixed bag of Christian and other forms of religions so we need real wisdom with the content of the paper and the distribution.
- This is a new country for us and we will be doing our first edition for Malawi February next year. We are doing a combined English/Chichewa edition. We are working with a Brethren ministry and Pro Christo Global Outreach. We are looking to see probably 10,000 papers printed every two months. We would value prayer for the folk we are working with and for the right printer to go to.
- We are very much in prayer for the work in Kenya under the leadership of Pastor Paul Dondoh and Peace Makers Fellowship. We would really value prayer for the seventeen churches that are very young in the Lord and often have pastors who are not all that well schooled in the things of the bible. We would value prayer for our first training team going into Kenya April of next year and we are really trusting the Lord for two of these per year to help equip and train young pastors and encourage these new churches.