Everyone is making resolutions and goals for the New Year and those are by no means bad. But what should be our perspective as we prepare for 2016? Join Charles and Daniel as they give a biblical perspective on planning for and facing the New Year!
I remember a time in my younger years when New Years was a bit depressing. Oh, I enjoyed football and other things, but there was also fear and apprehension. The friends I had chosen did not know Christ and could not encourage me to approach the New Year with joy and Biblical optimism. In spite of friends, I was lonely and uncertain. Insecurity ruled my life. My rock music heroes offered me no hope, and the light of Biblical faith was dim.
I am grateful for two little words that appear in the Bible: “but God”. Bear with me as I make some grammatical application. “But” is a conjunctive and usually acts as an adversative. In other words, what comes after “but” goes against the grain of what came before. That is what happens with our Lord. Everything that comes after Him runs against the grain, or is the antithesis of what came before. In Ephesians 2, Paul describes what our lives were like when we were dead in trespasses and sins. Then he says; “But God…” “But God shows His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). “But God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) This is the life, this is the hope, this is the joy of the one who belongs to Christ: “But God”.
We never know what a new year holds. “A man’s heart devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) We can only say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:15) The coming year holds the looming potential of frightening possibilities. Radical Islam is on the rise. Radical leadership has attempted to destroy much of what we hold dear. There is a bleakness as evil seems to be successful in its efforts to quench the light of truth. What is worse is that all too few seem to understand the real issues we face. These are dark times.
“But God…” A bleak outlook and a frightening prospect are not new to the people of God. Sennacherib, King of Assyria, brought his great army against the holy city of Jerusalem. When word got out, people were understandably afraid. Preparations were made, but prospects were bleak.
Then Hezekiah king of Judah exhorted the people: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid nor dismayed because of the King of Assyria, nor because of the great throng that is with him; With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah.” (11 Chronicles 32:7,8)
These words are similar to those of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:31; “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can stand against us?” This new year is full of the unknown, but the unknown need not control us. We can look to the new year with joyful anticipation, because the source of our joy owns the past, present, and future. “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control: that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and has shed His own blood for my soul.” So as you face the year, rest your life and future on these two words: “But God”.
There were a lot of great things on the blog in 2015! A few highlights include…
- The collaborative series posted during the spring on Dating. Be sure to check out Pam’s perspective, Charles’ perspective, Charles’ letter to Daniel and Micah, and lots of good stuff about dating on CrossTalk!
- Pam’s blog about The Shape of Our Lives: “The Lord is ever coordinating and shaping our lives to fit His will. He puts in motion His perfect plan for our lives.”
- Charles’ helpful and straightforward perspective on the events in Ferguson and Baltimore.
- Michelle’s guest blog on Achieving Self Worth.
- An exhortation and encouragement from Charles that, Having Done All, we must stand.
How do we express the wonder of the old Christmas story in a fresh way? Maybe the “freshness” of the old story is in the truth itself: the wonder of Christ and His incarnation.
Few things other than Scripture express the wonder of the incarnation better than H. R. Bramley’s poem on the subject. It is one of my favorites, and when you read it, I think you will see why. Maybe you will want to read it to your family on Christmas Eve. Enjoy and merry Christmas.
A babe on the breast of a maiden He lies,
Yet sits with the Father on high in the skies,
Before Him their faces the seraphim hide,
While Joseph stands waiting, unscared by His side.
Oh, wonder of wonders, which none can unfold!
The Ancient of Days is an hour or two old,
The Maker of all things is made of the earth,
Man is worshipped by angels, and God comes to birth.
The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
Yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains,
He is that He was, and forever shall be,
But becomes what He was not for you and for me.
Christmas is filled with beauty and wonder. From a merely human perspective, the music, decorations, and lights create an atmosphere of joy and anticipation. It is “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
It is, however, important and even necessary that we remind ourselves that the beauty of Christmas supersedes these things. For the follower of Christ, outward accoutrements are mere expressions and reminders of far greater and lasting realities. The manger was not a cute cradle surrounded by clean golden straw and germ-free animals. The shepherds were not clean cut Middle Eastern men. The surroundings of the Christ child were not glorious.
The manger was for feeding dirty animals which left their manure where they fed. The shepherds were men of dubious social status whose motives and character may well have been suspect. The character of Christ’s parents was questioned almost from the beginning, since the origin of the virgin-born child was surrounded by questions and mystery.
So the majesty of Christmas is not adequately illustrated by pristine decorations, shining halos, and brilliant auras. The majesty of Christmas is displayed through God incarnate planted among manure and dirty animals and worshipped by social outcasts. The majesty of Christmas is magnified by the holy God of heaven invading the filth of humanity in the form of human flesh. The majesty of Christmas is defined by the mercy of God for the untouchable and the unloveable. Our Savior did not come to complimentary surroundings but to contrasting realities that highlighted His holiness and our helplessness.
The arrival of another Christmas is our opportunity, not to reject its temporal beauties, but to embrace anew its eternal realities. As this Christmas comes and goes and the excitement of the season wanes, hold fast to its majesty and mercy which reside in the person of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus came and when he did he confronted mankind with their sin. This Christmas we need to remember to be confronted with the Christ who has forgiven our sins. Join Charles and Daniel as they challenge you with this concept… ‘Christmas is Confrontation’…
There could not be a more perfect revelation of God the Father than in God the Son. Christmas is about the revelation of God himself in the Son. Charles and Daniel provide some insights and meditations for this Christmas season…
Giving and going are part and parcel with ministry. Givers go, and goers give. Givers go when they support the goer, for the goer could not go without them. Goers give, because they offer their time and their lives. So givers go and goers give. We are all in this together.
At Vision4Living, God has given us the privilege of going and giving for nearly eight years. It has been a blessed time. We have traveled to Ecuador and other nations, preached in various places, and developed a retreat for Christian, young adults that continues to broaden in its reach.
The past year brought us several God-given successes for which we are grateful. We were able to revamp and expand our website at vision4living.org. This user-friendly tool is more easily navigated, saves valuable administrative time, and opens the door for expanded web ministry opportunities.
Micah had the privilege of leading a mission trip to Ecuador with Global Encounters with the help of gracious givers. He and his team reached over 300 kids with the message of the Gospel. Eternity will tell of the impact of that trip.
Our weekly podcast just celebrated our 100th episode – two years of recording – and continues to grow in its sphere of influence. We also continue to publish our weekly blog that has seen a growth in readership.
The culmination of this year’s ministry was our 8th annual Passion4Christ Summit. We had a gracious and generous volunteer staff and sixty-three attendees – approximately half of whom were first time attendees. You will be able to access these valuable and Biblically rich messages from the website. A note we received from one of our attendees sums up the impact of this year’s Summit:
I appreciate all the work you put into this year’s Passion4Christ Summit. I only saw glimpses of all the work that you did, just last weekend [October], and I know that much, much more goes on behind the scenes all year long. It’s such a tremendous blessing to be able to pull away for a weekend, be challenged by solid teaching, and enjoy fellowship with other believers. The sessions were all spot on. In a world lulled into compromise, I so need to be often reminded that the choices I make today affect who I am tomorrow. That eternity is real. That the battle for holiness begins in the mind. Thank you for standing on the truth of the Bible. May God continue to richly bless you guys as you continue to make Him known.
– P4C attendee
A total of 550 people have attended 8 P4C Summits between 2008 and 2015. Of this 550, there has been an average of 30-40 new attendees each year. This does not include those who are return attendees. So each year, an average of nearly 30-40 new young Christian adults go out strengthened and equipped to invest in their communities and local churches. Each year 30-40 new young adults spread the news about P4C and V4L and the work of the Gospel we do. And each year our influence for the sake of the Gospel continues to expand. Thank the Lord!
In all of this, we look to our Lord to guide and provide; to use givers who help us be goers. This year donations have been significantly down in comparison to previous years, and we have operated with a deficit of $10,625. It is not uncommon for ministries to operate at a deficit, and thank the Lord we did not run out of money but were able to pay all our bills. But we did spend more than we took in, in spite of being conservative and having some gracious staff work voluntarily to help out. But no ministry can operate this way for long. We operate off of donations, and your support will help us to continue to invest in and reach the next generation for Christ.
In 2016, with God’s help, we plan to:
- Continue the project of digitizing the 17+ years of my preaching ministry – $2000
- Write, design, and release free teaching and training e-books – $500
- Continue producing our weekly Podcast, Crosstalk – $500
- Continue local pastoral support and encouragement – $500
- Implement Passion4Christ Summit 2016 – $21,000
Next year’s P4C will cost us another $2000 in facility expense. We want to avoid passing this expense on to the attendees. As you can see, there is much in the way of cost in operating such a ministry, and we have not even included administrative costs.
In addition to these ministries, we will continue our weekly blog, and Micah will be returning to Ecuador during this Christmas season and next summer. Our hope is that these and much more ministry will be opened to us in the Lord’s timing. We are asking you to ask the Lord what part you should play in this work. All gifts matter and none are too small.
Our vision is to touch and change the next generation for Christ, to pass this vision on to the church, and to see the next generation loving Christ and His Gospel more passionately than their fathers. All our efforts are given to this calling and mission. Will you join us in this great endeavor, and watch as givers and goers touch the nations? You can support us by writing a check and send with the enclosed donation card and envelope or you can visit vision4living.org/support to give online. God bless you as you pursue Christ and His purpose for your life.
In the love of Christ,
Charles Cavanaugh, Pres. Vision4Living
Christmas is incarnation. The coming of Jesus was anticipated, expected, and consummated in the manager. But the story does not end there. Join Charles and Daniel as the give the whole story of Christmas.