Take a few minutes in your Christmas celebration to look at Jesus Christ in a different way.
The apostle Paul described the incomparable nature of Christ to the Christians who met in the city of Colossae. In the first chapter of the letter to the Colossians he described Jesus as “the image of the invisible God,” in verse 15. Paul said Jesus created everything. Verse 16 reads, “… all things have been created through Him and for Him.” In the next verse he made an astounding statement, “… in Him all things hold together.”
The words “hold together” are one word in the original Greek language of scripture. The King James Bible translates this, “consist.” Here’s the meaning: Jesus is the glue that holds everything in place. The consistency of everything stays intact where He is worshiped as Lord. Without Him, everything falls apart; everything comes unglued.
Christmas is about the One who holds everything together. The child whose birth we celebrate is the One who keeps order in a rebellious society. He injects civility into the world of uncivilized men and women whose fallen tendency is to tear things apart.
Not only is Jesus the One who holds everything together, He is also the Divine Contractor who reconstructs lives that have been ripped apart by sin. That’s why He endured the cross. He paid the price for our salvation so we could be forgiven, put back together, restored.
Notice two important truths. First, no one and nothing can hold this crazy world together except Jesus. No politician, no ideology, no religion, no amount of money, no power – nothing keeps the world from coming unglued, except Jesus. Second, no one and no thing has the power to put broken lives back together, except Jesus.
So, when Jesus is welcomed into our lives and His principles are woven into our culture, we see order in both worlds. He holds everything together. When Jesus is uninvited, pushed out of our personal life or forced out of the social order, everything falls apart. The evidence for this is overwhelming.
Those who reject our celebration of Christmas are completely blind to the truth that they are rejecting the One who is “order.” In ignorance they are dismissing the One who keeps chaos from becoming commonplace. They do not know that God loves them enough to bring order into their bewildered lives. That’s why we proclaim Him!
Our international impact
Are we really serious about the Great Commission? We’re about to find out. The significance of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) is being tested right now. In a few weeks we will know if our churches “get it” or if the LMCO is just another one of those routine things we do.
In 2009 Southern Baptists hit a high mark, supporting 5,600 missionaries on the international mission field through the International Mission Board (IMB). Since then, reduced financial support for missions through the Cooperative Program and LMCO has forced IMB leaders to decrease the number of missionaries to about 4,800. That number needs to be reduced again to at least 4,200 – perhaps to 4,000 – by early 2016 in order to operate within the offerings we give our missions personnel.
So IMB is cutting personnel at least 12.5 percent and up to 16.5 percent, depending on how many missionaries respond to the Voluntary Retirement Incentive they were offered in September, and depending on how many additional missionaries will be eliminated due to trimming some positions in 2016.
IMB has already reduced the work force more than 14 percent since 2009. Our low giving patterns now require another 12.5 to 16.5 percent reduction (4,800 to 4,200 or 4,000) this year.
If churches are serious about responding to the immediate crisis, each church needs an LMCO offering that is 12.5 to 16.5 percent higher than last year’s LMCO gifts. That does not allow for increasing our missionary force. It only permits the status quo.
If we want our missionary force to return to 2009 standards, churches should consider an LMCO that is 33 percent above last year’s gifts. Excessive? Impossible? Not at all. Our God specializes in doing the impossible.
IMB President David Platt reminds church leaders, “It’s actually the local church that is the agent that God has promised to use for accomplishing the Great Commission.” The cutbacks are not an IMB problem. This is a local church problem. The local church is both the source of missionary funding and the beginning point for the mission vision.
Remember, IMB does not send out missionaries. Local churches send missionaries; IMB’s role is to serve the local church by facilitating international missions. I hope we still believe that.
The staff of your Biblical Recorder wishes you a very joyous celebration of the birth of Jesus – the One who redeems and holds everything together.