Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should My Church Participate in Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Ministry?

Originally published September 23, 2019

This article has been modified and updated
since its original publication.

I lead the children’s ministry in our small rural church, and for years our children have participated in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox “ministry.” It has come to my attention that this program may be quite ineffective in spreading the gospel. In fact, I have read that many missionaries refuse the boxes because it causes such chaos and confusion. I would like recommendations of legitimate world mission organizations [we could donate to instead] that would allow our children to look past our sheltered life here to what God is doing in other parts of His creation.

Wait…what? Christmas? It’s only September!

Yep. Christmas will be here sooner than you think, and your church staff and committees are probably already planning for it. And if your church usually participates in Operation Christmas Child (OCC) but might decide to do something different this year because of the information in this article, they’re going to need some time to get their ducks in a row.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization, an evangelistic “international relief” outreach. Each fall, churches across the U.S. encourage their members to fill an OCC shoebox with small gifts and hygiene items. OCC collects the boxes, tucks in a gospel booklet, and delivers the boxes to children in various locations around the world. At an OCC shoebox distribution event, an OCC representative shares the gospel with the assembled children and then distributes a box to each child.

There are two separate questions in this reader’s e-mail:

  • Should my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?
  • What are some other good international ministries my church could participate in instead?

Should I/my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?

I want to clarify this question a little bit. I understand what the reader who sent this e-mail means when she mentions missionaries reporting “chaos and confusion” resulting from shoebox distribution, because prior to receiving her e-mail, I had already been reading reports (maybe the same ones she read) of exactly the same thing (more on that in a sec). So the main issue the reader is asking about is whether or not the shoebox distributions are the most efficient, effective, and biblical way to share the gospel and undergird missionary efforts.

However, since I originally published this article in 2019, I’ve become aware of another issue with OCC that needs to be a weighty consideration when deciding whether or not to have anything to do with OCC, Samaritan’s Purse, or Franklin Graham, and that is the fact that Franklin Graham yokes in ministry with some of the worst false teachers out there.

For example: During Franklin Graham’s “Prayer March 2020” he partnered and joined in prayer with numerous heretics and false teachers, including TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), Matt and Laurie Crouch (heads of TBN), Jonathan Cahn, Jentzen Franklin, Robert Morris, and Paula White, among others, and then unashamedly platformed them on his Twitter feed. This was not a little “oopsie” with one person he disagrees with on baptism or eschatology. These are people who are blatantly immersed in New Apostolic Reformation and other egregious false doctrine. It is inexcusable for a professing Christian of his stature and influence a) not to know this, or b) to know it and ignore it, defying Scripture’s many commands not to associate with such reprobates.

Franklin also promotes his sister, Anne Graham Lotz, and platforms her in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s (BGEA) Decision Magazine. As CEO of BGEA, he has allowed people like Brian Johnson (Bethel’s senior worship “pastor”; Jenn Johnson’s husband, Bill Johnson’s son), Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, and Sheila Walsh to be featured on the BGEA website and in other BGEA media. He has allowed BGEA’s The Cove conference center to be used for events featuring Beth Moore and Lisa Harper. Franklin has featured Hillsong and Phil Wickham (close ties to Bethel) at his events. In 2020, he participated in the Hope Rising Benefit Concert, which featured, among others, modalist and prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes and Lysa TerKeurst. All funds raised went to Samaritan’s Purse. (If you’re unclear on why these people are unbiblical, click here.)

He may be a really nice guy who’s on the right side of politics and important biblical issues like homosexuality and abortion, and he may do a lot of good charity work, and you may have a sentimental attachment to his father (Billy Graham), but none of that mitigates the fact that he’s defying Scripturesinning – by yoking with some really egregious false teachers.

Until/unless Franklin Graham publicly repents of this sin, it is my recommendation that you not participate in or donate to Operation Christmas Child, nor have anything to do with Franklin Graham, nor either of the two organizations of which he is president and CEO: Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Now, to the reader’s question: Is the OCC shoebox program the wisest way to steward our church’s resources – could we get more gospel bang for our buck another way? Is this a biblical model for sharing the gospel? Do shoebox distributions cause problems for missionaries and the communities they serve in?

And for the answers to those questions, I would encourage every church and individual considering participating in OCC to read all of the information at the OCC website and compare what you read to these missionaries’ first hand accounts¹ of how shoebox distributions were handled and how the distributions impacted their work and communities. Then, prayerfully consider whether or not you or your church should participate.

“What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ
is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?”

“In some places, we haven’t been well-received because the missionaries who went there before us presented gifts….and we have no gifts. When those missionaries left, their ‘converts’ also returned back to their old faith and were waiting for the next gift presenters.”

Opening Up Christmas Shoeboxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side?
and
Sometimes the Starfish Story Doesn’t Work
These articles (the second is a follow up to the first) are both by Amy Medina.

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

“When Saddam Hussein was terrorizing the Kurds…an American was in Baghdad meeting with the Minister of Health. The minister abruptly said “I have to go – do you want to come with me? I have to do something for our leader’s birthday.” The American goes with him. They go to a warehouse in Baghdad, and there sit piles and piles of Samaritan’s purse Christmas Shoe Boxes. The Minister of Health is supervising minions to deliver all of them to the Children’s Hospital as gifts from Uncle Saddam for his birthday….a bunch of Iraqi kids got wonderful gifts from Saddam by way of Franklin Graham at Samaritan’s Purse.”

13 Things I Want American Christians to Know about the Stuff You Give Poor Kids by Rachel Pieh Jones

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

…the Operation Christmas Child boxes had reached the warehouse in Ndola and…the Mansa churches needed to come up with eight kwacha per box for 5,000 boxes to receive their shipment. That’s $4,000USD…comments from the pastors ranged from, “We don’t have this kind of money,” to, “Aren’t these boxes supposed to be free?” to, “Next year, let’s just refuse the boxes all together!”

boxing up expectations: reflections on OCC and the church by Bethany Colvin

What are some other good international ministries I/my church could participate in instead?

Whether you’re looking for a ministry to donate to or a way to tangibly serve others, the first thing I would recommend is that you ask your pastor what the needs are in your own church (remember, we serve the needs of our own church members first before serving others). It’s not biblical to overlook the needs of the brother or sister down the pew from you in favor of strangers half a world away.

If everyone in your church is taken care of, your pastor may be able to suggest a local or international ministry that could use your help. Many churches donate directly to various individual missionaries and local and international ministries, and I think you should support your church and its leadership by donating to the ministries they have chosen before looking for other ministries to donate to.

If your pastor doesn’t have any recommendations, my suggestion would be to give what people need the most: God’s Word:

The Master’s Academy International

HeartCry Missionary Society

Tomorrow Clubs

Bible League International

Gideons International

Pocket Testament League

Some of the articles linked I linked to earlier in this post include information on alternatives to OCC, and I’ve given a few more thoughts here.

Whichever ministry you choose to serve or donate to, make sure to vet its theology, and make sure they are sharing the gospel along with whatever relief or goods they are providing.


Addendum: After the original publication of this article, most of the feedback I received was thoughtful and positive. However, I was shocked at the number of nasty, enraged comments and e-mails I received – from professing Christians, mind you – that seemed to elevate participation in OCC to an idolatrous level. What you prayerfully decide to do about participating in OCC is between you and God, but if you are angered by the information in this article to the point that you strike out at me or one of the missionaries who has simply stated her honest experience with OCC, you need to check your heart against Scripture. You are idolizing OCC over loving your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you’re acting in a way unbecoming of a professing Christian.

If you are considering responding to this article with nastiness or rage, please save yourself some time and don’t bother. I will not publish comments like that anywhere on my blog or social media, and I will immediately delete (without reading, and certainly without responding) any such emails.

OCC Shoeboxes: Answering the Arguments


¹These specific articles are provided for their attestation to experiences with OCC, only. I do not endorse any of these sites which deviate from Scripture or my theology as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or contact me. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christmas

Pondering God’s Promises

Originally published December 9, 2016

pondering-promises

But Mary treasured up all these things,
pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Ponder. It isn’t a word we use very often, is it? It means to spend some time in reflection, considering, thinking deeply about things. Christmas is a time for pondering, and no one knew that better than Mary.

Luke 2:19 finds Mary, Joseph, and Jesus alone in the stable, at the culmination of a whirlwind of mind-boggling events.

Think about all Mary had been through in the last few months…

  • After 400 years of silence from God, between the close of the Old Testament and, now, the opening of the New, an angel showed up – a staggering event in and of itself – and brought her a nearly incomprehensible message. Mary was going to be the mother of God’s promised Messiah. And that’s not all. She would be the only woman ever to conceive by the Holy Spirit.
  • At some point Mary had to break the news to her parents that she was pregnant. Were they godly people of faith, as quick to believe as Mary had been? Or, did Mary fear they might be skeptical and shocked?
  • Next to hear the news was her betrothed, Joseph. Incredulous, his first thought was to obtain a quiet divorce. But God sent another angel and reassured him personally.
  • How did Mary’s friends, loved ones, and community react to her pregnancy? Did she have to endure long months of whispers, stares, and gossip? Was she in danger of stoning or other punishment as prescribed by Levitical law?
  • A visit to Elizabeth’s house yielded even more amazement as Mary’s cousin related her own incredible pregnancy story.
  • Next on the agenda was a long, uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem and the pain and danger that came with first century childbirth.
  • Before she was anywhere near ready for visitors, the shepherds arrived and regaled the little family with their fantastic story of a sky full of angels proclaiming the birth of the Savior to them.
  • And to top it all off, lying in her arms was a brand new, precious baby- her first. All of us who are moms remember the weightiness, and sometimes, panic, of holding our first baby. “What do I do first? How will I take care of this child? What if I mess it all up?” And Mary’s first child was God incarnate. King of the universe. Savior of the world. Think she felt a tad inadequate?

Mary’s had quite a year, to put it mildly. And now the shepherds have left and she has a moment to catch her breath and reflect on all these events that led up to God fulfilling His promises to her, to Israel, and to the whole world. The promise of the Messiah- Jesus.

And just as Mary pondered the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ, Christmas time is an oh-so-appropriate time for us to ponder the promises He has made to us in Christ.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know exactly what God has promised us. If you peruse the books at your local Christian retailer or flip on your TV or radio to many of the “Christian” stations, you’ll hear all sorts of things that God has supposedly promised us, things like: a bigger house, a better job, healing from every disease, that you’ll be able to hear God’s voice speaking to you, miracles, restored relationships, a better life…

But does God really promise us all these things?

How do we find out what God has really promised us? We go straight to the source- God’s word. It is the only truly trustworthy source for knowing what God has promised us.

But there are a lot of promises in the Bible. Some of them are for us today and some of them aren’t. For example, did God promise you that you would conceive by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Messiah? No. That promise was only for Mary. Did God promise the United States Army that if they would go march around an enemy city and blow some horns that the city walls would fall down and they would conquer that city? No. That was for only for Joshua and Israel, and only that one time.

We learn which promises are for us by being good students of God’s word. By picking up our Bibles (and I would urge you, the best way to learn God’s word is to study God’s word, not somebody else’s book). We pick up our Bibles and study them in context, in a systematic way, rightly dividing the Word of truth, paying attention to who God is talking to in each passage.

So, as it’s Christmas time and we reflect back on the Christmas story – maybe even pondering some of the same things that Mary did – what are some of the things God has promised us in Christ?

God has promised us forgiveness from our sin in Christ

When the angel came to visit Joseph and told him to go ahead and take Mary as his wife, the angel said:

matt-1-21

Romans 5:8 says:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And 1 John 1:9 says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Bible says that all of us are dirty, rotten, wretched sinners. None is righteous, no not one. And since all of our good deeds – never mind the bad ones – are like filthy rags, there’s no way we could ever hope to make up for our sin by being a good person or doing good things.

And God, in His beautiful mercy and grace, doesn’t even require us to try. He reached down into our filth and sent His own Son to take the death penalty you and I deserve for our sin. He absorbed God’s wrath toward us, so that we can stand before God clean if we’ll just repent and trust what Christ did for us on the cross. God promises to remove our sins as far as the east is from the west, to drop them in the depths of the sea, and to remember them no more. God promises us forgiveness in Christ.

God promises us trials and persecution

Doesn’t sound very Christmasy, does it? But perhaps we’ve forgotten the part of the Christmas story in which Mary and Joseph had to take Jesus and flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill Him.

And just as Jesus faced persecution and hardship, we can expect to face it too. Second Timothy 3:12 tells us:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

And John 16:33 says:

In this world you will have tribulation.

Just as Herod hated Christ, the world will hate us because of Christ. Just as Christ suffered because He was born into a broken and sinful world, so, we will suffer various trials and tribulations. In this world, you will have tribulation. But is that the end of that verse? No – praise God! – it is not.

The remainder of John 16:33 says “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The trials and tribulations and persecutions we face are all just light and momentary afflictions, because Christ has overcome the world- and our hope is not in this world.

One day, we will shuffle off this mortal coil and see Christ Jesus face to face. And when we look upon the beautiful face of Christ, if we even remember the troubles of this world, we won’t complain or whine or ask, “Why did You allow me to go through those things?” or “Why didn’t you give me my best life now?”  

We’ll say:

It was worth it.

And in the meantime, God promises to walk through that suffering with us. “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” He says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the ends of the age.” God promises us trials and persecution, but He promises to walk through them with us.

God promises us joy

When the angel appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ, he said:

luke-2-10

“All the people.” That’s us, too! When we think about the good news of the gospel, it should bring us great joy.

Galatians 5:22 tells us that joy is part of the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit indwelling us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…

First Peter 1:8 says:

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.

And why is that joy “inexpressible and filled with glory”? Why is it joy that will never fade away? Because our joy is found in Christ: who He is and what He has done for us. Joy isn’t found in temporary circumstances- when you’re healthy, when you have a lot of money in the bank, when your kids are all successful, when your job is going well. Those things can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.

But if your heart, your mind, and your life have been transformed by the good news of the gospel, you can have joy even in the midst of devastation and heartbreak, because Christ isn’t going anywhere. He will always hold you and keep you and comfort you. He hears you when you pray and does what’s best for you. He takes care of you. He allows you to draw close to Him and discover more and more about Him through the study of His word. He gives you fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

That is the kind of joy God promises us in Christ.

God promises to provide for us

I wonder if Mary, while she was pondering all of these amazing things, reflected on the many ways God had provided for her. He provided a husband to take care of her, a cousin to encourage her, protection throughout her pregnancy, and a place to stay in Bethlehem.

God promises to provide for us, too. Philippians 4:19 says:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

And Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

God is a good and loving Father. He knows all of our needs even better than we do. He wants us to work hard and ethically, make wise financial decisions, and be good stewards of the resources He has given us, but He wants us to trust Him and depend on Him – not a paycheck or a job or insurance or a savings account – to take care of us.

God provided manna in the wilderness every day. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. And He has promised to provide for us.

Those are just a few of the wonderful things God has promised us. One of the great things about His promises is that there are so many of them. I could go on and on about God’s promises of peace, contentment, hope, love, Heaven, justice…

But I’d like to close with my favorite promise. It’s the promise that is foundational to all of God’s other promises:

2-cor-1-20

All of God’s promises from Genesis to Revelation are fulfilled in Christ. God keeps His promises, and He keeps them in Christ.

As Mary pondered all the things God had promised her about Jesus, she didn’t have to wonder if they were true or not. She had seen them come true with her own eyes.

How can we know that God keeps His promises to us in Christ? Because He proved it to us. He backed up His word with action:

Jesus Christ- the second Person of the Trinity, creator and ruler of the universe, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the prince of Heaven, worshiped by angels, all powerful, all mighty, all knowing, worthy of all glory, honor, and praise – did not consider these things as things to be grasped or held tightly to.

But He emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Born, not into wealth, power, prestige, or position; not into a mansion or a palace, but born to plain, simple, anonymous people. And in humility, for most of His years, He lived a plain, simple, anonymous life. Resisting every temptation in thought, word, and deed, that He might become the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

And in the fullness of time, He was despised and rejected by men. Subjected to a kangaroo court, he was tried and convicted for crimes he did not commit, and sentenced to death- even death on a cross

Harsh, sinful men took Jesus out and smashed a crown of thorns down on His head. They mocked and scorned Him. They pulled His beard out. They pummeled Him with their fists. And then they whipped Him nearly to death.

They laid the rough, splintery cross beam across Jesus’ bruised and bloodied shoulders and led Him in humiliation through the streets of His beloved Jerusalem, outside the city gates, to be executed like a common criminal.

Those evil men used the very hands Jesus Himself had knit together in their mothers’ wombs to reach down, pick up hammers, and drive spikes through wrists and feet of their Creator.

And Jesus hung there on that cross for hours in excruciating pain to to endure the holy, just, and righteous wrath of God toward our sin, to take the punishment that we deserve- and He did not.

Later that day, while Mary mourned, and the disciples scattered, and Satan thought he had finally conquered the God he hated, they took Jesus’ bloody, broken body down off the cross, laid him in a cold, dark, lonely cave, and rolled a stone across the opening.

Friday…

Saturday…

But Jesus didn’t stay there, did He?

On that bright, beautiful, first Easter Sunday, Jesus left behind the sting of the grave and the bonds of death, and He walked out of that tomb conquering sin, death, hell, and the grave FOREVER.

FOREVER.

And He did it for you, and He did it for me. And any God who goes to those lengths for you and for me can be trusted to keep His promises. ALL of His promises.

God’s word is true, ladies- all of it. God can be trusted- He proved it in Christ. You can stake your life on His promises. You can stake your eternity on His promises. 

Ponder that.

Christmas

Elizabeth’s Gift

Sometimes I think that if Elizabeth’s story had happened back in the Old Testament, we’d spend much more time on it than we do and be much more amazed by it than we are. Instead, we kind of tend to regard her as a footnote in the Christmas story, overshadowed by the story of Jesus’ incarnation.

And I’m sure Elizabeth is totally fine with that. Like her own son said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

But Elizabeth’s story is a rich gift to Christ’s birth narrative, adding wonder and awe to the divine beauty of the tale. It is also God’s gift to us as Christian women, giving us a sister in Christ to look up to and learn from.

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Luke 1:5-7

Elizabeth was righteous before God. She walked blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Like you and me, she wasn’t perfect. She still fell into sin. But because she loved the Lord, she repented, and strove to live her life to please Him.

But Elizabeth also knew sorrow. She and Zechariah had no child. She had been barren for all of her childbearing years, and now she was elderly – some scholars estimate at least 60 years old – and long past menopause.

If you or someone you know has ever experienced the heartbreak of infertility, you know just how painful that is. And in biblical times, culture added insult to injury in a lot of ways. It was assumed any infertility was a problem with the woman, when today we know that men can also be infertile.

Because children are a blessing from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is a reward, and because God sometimes closed the wombs of certain women in Scripture as a result of sin – it was often assumed that if you weren’t having children you were cursed by God, or your barrenness was some sort of punishment for sin.

And in addition to all of that, in that day and time, women were “low man on the totem pole” so to speak. They were regarded as less than men in practically every way- intelligence, abilities, worth, and so on. They couldn’t testify in court because their testimony wasn’t considered credible. And, maybe you’ve even heard of the daily prayer that Jewish men still say today, thanking God for not creating them a gentile…a slave…or a woman.

So, practically the only way women of that time could achieve a modicum of respect and status in society was by marrying well and by having sons. And, though she did marry well, Elizabeth didn’t have any children.

Try to imagine being a woman of Elizabeth’s time, having all of that on your shoulders, and having virtually no power to do anything about it.

Do you think you might be a little bitter toward God?

“Lord, my husband’s a priest! We can’t go around having people think you’ve cursed us.”

“We’ve been serving You all these years, and all we’ve asked for is a baby. You
owe us.”

“You’re not going to give me the one thing I want most in life? Forget it – there are plenty of other gods to worship. I’ll go serve one of them.”

But not Elizabeth. Elizabeth just kept getting up day after day, trusting the Lord, serving the Lord, obeying the Lord.

And let’s not forget, we know the rest of the story. We know God is going to miraculously open Elizabeth’s womb and she’ll be the mother of John the Baptist. We know she’s going to be one of the first people to learn the good news of the Messiah. We know she’s going to be celebrated and famous across the world once her story gets into Scripture.

Elizabeth didn’t know that. For all those years faithfully following and trusting the Lord, she didn’t know any of that. For all she knew, she was going to die childless and in obscurity, quickly to be forgotten even by those who knew her. And yet she still chose to walk faithfully with the Lord.

Elizabeth was faithful to God because of who God is, not for what she could get out of Him. She served God to get more of God, not to get the goodies.

But look what happens next…

Now while [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense…And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense…the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Luke 1:8-9,11,13

Zechariah has the great honor of entering the temple and burning incense. Suddenly – a miracle! Gabriel, who stands in the very presence of God Himself, has brought the amazing news that Elizabeth – barren and past her time – is going to give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah.

And Zechariah doesn’t believe it.

But Elizabeth does

Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.

Luke 1:25

Elizabeth believed God.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Luke 1:39-45

The newly pregnant Mary comes for a visit. The Holy Spirit reveals to and through Elizabeth that the baby Mary is carrying is the Messiah. And, once again, in great humility, Elizabeth believes Him: “Who am I, that my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth wondered.

Indeed – who are any of us, that our Lord should come to us?

Elizabeth did not seek out Jesus. He came to find her. So, we who were dead in our sins and trespasses did not seek Him. He came to us, to seek and to save that which was lost.

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.”

Luke 1:57-60

It’s a boy! What a joy-filled day it must have been. This wasn’t just any birth. It was God’s promise fulfilled. It was God’s mercy to Elizabeth, His blameless – yet not sinless – and undeserving child. It was God’s blessing to Elizabeth, His faithful servant. The same kind of mercy and blessings He shows us, His faithful, yet undeserving sons and daughters. The same way He fulfills His promises to us.

The time quickly came to circumcise and officially name the baby. Tradition dictated that he be named after Dad: Zechariah. But Elizabeth believed all that God had revealed about this baby to the point that she put her foot down, broke with tradition and insisted, along with her husband, that the baby be named John. It wasn’t about what she wanted. It wasn’t about what others thought was best. It was all about God, and what He wanted.

All of these unbelievable things happening to Elizabeth, yet Elizabeth believes God. Obeys God. Trusts God. She trusted and obeyed God all of those years when He said no, and she believed and obeyed Him after He said yes.

May we, as godly women, be daughters of Elizabeth: Believing God through the unbelievable. Trusting Him in times of uncertainty. Obeying Him in the face of opposition.

What a legacy this dear sister has left us.

What a gift.

Christmas, Evangelism, Movies

Movie Tuesday: Christmas Gone Viral

Originally published November 28, 2017

One third of the world celebrates Christmas. That makes this the perfect time of year to carry out the Great Commission. What could be a more natural transition from chit chat to the gospel than talking about Christmas – the birth of Christ? Watch as Ray Comfort and ordinary folks from all over the world share the good news of Jesus with those they encounter.

If you’re looking for other easy ways to share the gospel in the coming weeks, check out my article, 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays. You can also order some awesome Christmas-themed tracts to tuck inside your Christmas cards or share as you’re shopping at Living Waters or Bezeugen.