Here you will find the very latest news from the Baptist Press (BP), NAMB (North American Mission Board) and IMB (International Mission Board). Each entry includes the title, source and date of the article and a brief summary.

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BP News Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 2:58pm
LifeWay to host first Women's Leadership Forum in the West
By Joy Allmond

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The LifeWay Women's Leadership Forum will make its western debut at Mariner's Church in Irvine, Calif., Feb. 20-21.

Since the inception of the forum, LifeWay Christian Resources has hosted thousands of women in the Nashville area and at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

Kelly King, LifeWay's women's ministry specialist, said there's never been a more important time than now to come alongside churches in the West.

"We need each other," King said. "Not just as individuals and sisters, but as churches who have the same goal -- to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to spur one another on as we do that.

"I'm thrilled to link arms with other leaders -- perhaps some of whom we've never had the privilege to serve -- to accomplish great things for the Kingdom and in the lives of women."

The theme of the forum is "Flourish," which focuses on the important role of mentoring in disciple-making.

With its focus verse of Acts 12:24, King said, "Scripture has a lot of metaphors about planting seeds and where the seed falls. The result is fruitfulness. Our job is to plant the seeds, water them -- do that part of it -- but allow the Lord to bring the growth."

The women's forum is for women who lead or serve in the local church in women's and girl's ministry or by teaching Bible studies, as well entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms and working professionals who walk out their leadership calling in their day-to-day life. Women attending the forum will sit under the teaching of today's top ministry leaders and authors, participate in breakout sessions led by experienced trainers, and learn from peers who serve in the local church.

Not only is it mission-crucial for LifeWay to host an equipping event such as the forum in the West, said King, but it's timely, given the theme and one of society's current challenges: loneliness.

"We live in an age of isolation," she explained. "It's a real issue that results in anxiety and depression. And we can find accountability and spiritual growth through mentoring relationships."

Ruth Chou Simons, founder and CEO of Colorado-based GraceLaced Co., is a keynote speaker for the forum.

GraceLaced, according to its website, is "a multi-faceted company rooted in ministry" that serves customers around the world through its offerings of gospel-inspired original prints, books and other gifts.

"I'm excited to serve and encourage women at the Women's Leadership Forum," Simons said.

"Nothing will impact our leadership as sisters serving sisters more than a steady commitment to the Word of God and the tools that help us to use our gifts in service. I can't wait to see how the Lord builds women through the forum."

LifeWay author Kelly Minter, another keynote speaker at the forum, said she's eager to break geographical ground for LifeWay's women's ministry on the West Coast.

"I can't think of a better part of the country to equip and encourage leaders in their ministries, especially since our culture is longing for truth and purpose," Minter said.

"We want to make Jesus known from East Coast to West, and I can't wait to see how the timelessness of God's Word ministers through the forum in Southern California."

The forum will also include smaller breakout sessions that allow leaders to customize their equipping experience based on their ministry roles. Attendees will hear testimonies of mentoring relationships, and there will be emphases on family and marketplace ministry.

"Collaborative Conversations" -- opportunities to network with other women who lead and trade ideas, strategies and inspiration -- will be available to all in attendance.

There will also be an on-site LifeWay store, which will offer books, Bible studies, apparel and other gifts.

The film industry will have representation through the main stage at the forum. Shari Rigby, who has starred in notable films like "October Baby" and most recently, the Kendrick Brothers' "Overcomer" is scheduled as a keynote speaker.

"LifeWay is bringing women leaders together to encourage and inspire them by uniting the East and the WestÑwomen empowering women," Rigby said.

"The world we live in today teaches us to focus on all that we see, spinning us out of control and causing anxiety to fill our lives. We must mentor women, reminding them to keep their eyes on Jesus."

Other forum speakers include LifeWay authors Jen Wilkin and Beth Moore, along with Mariners Church Pastor Eric Geiger.

Immediately following the conclusion of the leadership forum, LifeWay Women will host Living Proof Live with Beth Moore (Feb. 21-22), also at Mariners Church. Bundle pricing is available for women to attend both the forum and Living Proof Live at a discounted price.

Visit the forum website for more information and to register.


Southern Seminary expands its non-residential doctoral studies program, adds two modular concentrations

LOUISVILLE, Ky., (BP) -- In an effort to make its doctoral studies program available to pastor-theologians everywhere, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced it is installing new doctor of philosophy modular concentrations in Biblical Studies and Historical and Theological Studies.

The two modular formats will bring Southern Seminary's high standard of excellence in biblical and theological studies to students previously unable to study them remotely.

The concentrations also underscore the school's commitment to excellence in biblical and theological scholarship in service to the church, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary.

"Southern Seminary's Ph.D. program has been the leader for over a century," Mohler said. "We believe these two new programs are incredibly strong. They will serve the church, give us flexibility we have never had in the past, and put us in good stead as we look to the future for this premier doctoral program."

The new programs will extend Southern Seminary's longstanding commitment to the highest standards of Christian theological scholarship, said Matthew J. Hall, senior vice president of academic administration and provost of Southern Seminary.

"Since 1892, Southern Seminary has offered one of the premier doctoral programs in North American theological education," Hall said. "Marked by the highest level of scholarship, a commitment to biblical authority, and a passion for the church, this stewardship continues in this generation. By offering the Ph.D. in these classical theological disciplines, we are now able to make this level of study accessible to even more, all the while complementing our traditional residential programs."

These programs will not only make traditional theological disciplines more available to students who cannot physically be on campus, they will also expose students to a broader range of disciplines and equip them to be better scholars and teachers at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Students in the biblical studies program will take courses in both Old Testament and New Testament directly from faculty in those departments.

Likewise, historical and theological studies students will take courses from Southern Seminary's church history and systematic theology faculty members.

The modular Ph.D. program is already excellent, said Jonathan T. Pennington, director of the research doctoral studies program, but these new courses will give modular students the opportunity to study under Southern Seminary's accomplished evangelical faculty.

"For over 125 years the goal of Southern's research doctoral studies program has been to provide rigorous scholarly training in a confessional environment, channeled into service for the Church and the Kingdom of God," Pennington said. "These new Ph.D. concentrations help us expand the heritage of our programs into the future and reach more people than ever."

These two modular concentrations will officially open in the Fall 2020 semester. Find out more about the program here:


Hobby Lobby and Green Family donate campus to OBU

SHAWNEE, Oak., (BP) -- Hobby Lobby and the Green Family formally announced their donation of the former St. Gregory's University campus to Oklahoma Baptist University during a special event Wednesday, Dec. 11. The event took place at the Rockwood Center on the campus of the former SGU, now the OBU Green Campus.

Hobby Lobby purchased the property last year following SGU's bankruptcy proceedings, after St. Gregory's closed its doors in December 2017.

At that time, OBU offered a teach-out agreement to current SGU students, with many of them transferring to OBU to complete their degrees.

The donated property is approximately 72 acres, with 286,600 square feet contained in seven major buildings.

The donation deed for the property was filed earlier in the week, officially transferring ownership to OBU. St. Gregory's Abbey and Monastery will continue to occupy its current property, as will the Mabee-Gerrer Museum, as they operate as separate entities from the university.

The event included comments by Les Miller, real estate analyst for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; Dr. Pat Taylor, OBU interim president; Dr. Heath Thomas, OBU president-elect; Dr. David Whitlock, former OBU president and chancellor; and Dr. Will Smallwood, OBU senior vice president for advancement and university relations.

Miller, a 1981 OBU graduate, offered remarks on behalf of Hobby Lobby and the Green family, who founded and owns the corporation.

"It is with great joy that God has extended to the Green family the opportunity to invest in the future of Oklahoma Baptist University and her students, through the donation of this beautiful property, now affectionately referred to as the Green Campus," Miller said. "OBU's history is one of steadfast faithfulness to God's Word, something that must remain the highest priority as a University devoted to impacting the world for Christ and His kingdom."

"OBU is known for providing the highest in quality, Christian liberal arts education," Miller continued. "OBU functions as a means of God's grace to the students who come here to be educated. Yet they receive far more as they step into her care – they are given the rare and unique opportunity where rigorous scholarship, together with a Christian world view, prepare the whole person for success, but also for the many challenges of life. In a time when Christian faith is viewed by the world as something to be tolerated, OBU embraces the understanding that a deeply meaningful and fulfilling university education includes a firm foundation established in Christ."

"For these reasons, and for so many more, it is an honor for the Green family and Hobby Lobby to present this property to Oklahoma Baptist University, to the future benefit of generations of students, on mission for Christ," Miller said.

Miller also shared deep-felt appreciation to St. Gregory's University alumni and former employees, who impacted the community and the state with more than a century of Christian higher education on the former SGU campus.

"The Greens would also like to recognize the long and outstanding contribution that St. Gregory's University made to the Shawnee community, to Oklahoma, and far beyond. The importance of this property to the community, the alumni, faculty and administration of St. Gregory's University does not go unnoticed. To the Benedictine Monks of St. Gregory's Abbey, thank you for your stewardship of this property and ministry to Oklahoma and points beyond."

Dr. Heath Thomas, OBU president-elect, concluded the ceremony with his words of gratitude for the gift of the Green Campus and anticipation of what the future holds for OBU.

"It is an historic day," Thomas said. "It is an exciting moment in the history of OBU. We are excited about the future of this Green Campus as we continue our mission to transform students' lives by providing distinctively Christian liberal arts higher education at OBU. It carries on the legacy of education that has gone on here for over a century.

"I join the chorus of those who have spoken this morning to express my heartfelt gratitude and say thank you to the Green Family, and to all who facilitated this generous gift to OBU. This is indeed a day of celebration."

Thomas continued with words of anticipation for how the campus will be used to transform lives into the future.

"As we move forward, we will work carefully and deliberately to ensure that this campus extends the legacy of Christian higher education begun by St. Gregory's University for over a century. And for that legacy, we are grateful, and we will carefully consider how best this campus will facilitate OBU's mission of transforming lives through a distinctively Christian liberal arts education."


BP News Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 1:21pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- YouVersion Bible app announced its most popular verse of 2019, Philippians 4:6: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."

The globally influential app has seen significant increase in downloads, engagement and consistent interaction from users new and returning around the world.

The overall increase of app use from the previous year is 30 percent, according to a release.

The statement also notes that 5.6 billion chapters of the Bible were listened to, 35.6 billion chapters read, 1.1 billion days were spent in Bible plans, two billion highlights, bookmarks and notes were made and more than 478 million verses were shared throughout 2019.

In all 11 years since the app's creation, it has been downloaded more than 400 million times.

Global outreach outside the United States has grown tremendously with the app now offering more than 2,000 versions and more than 1,350 languages.

The app has been downloaded in every country on earth.

Algeria saw the largest engagement increase, finishing the year at 261 percent growth.

Another prominent verse shared consistently was Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you."

This verse was the most shared in Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Argentina, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam.

Trevin Wax, senior vice president of theology and communications at LifeWay, said the commonality between countries and their most popular verse raises a lot of questions about the specific app usage in each individual country.

Socioeconomic status, church attendance history and denominational background could potentially play a role in the Bible app usage throughout the year, Wax said.

"It raises additional questions that make you wonder about the different contexts," Wax said. "It is fascinating to see so many different countries gravitating toward the same verses."

The cultural situations may be vastly different, but the inclination to share verses that call individuals to point their minds above, to God, is a commonality.

"People that are sharing Bible verses in YouVersion look like they gravitate towards action verses where it's something of a daily jolt or a reminder of what it is that we're all to be about," Wax said.

Matthew 6:33 is a command from Jesus to seek the kingdom and Philippians 4:6 is a command to be God oriented, to take whatever it is we encounter in our lives to the Lord.

"What's interesting to me, is how many of these number one verses, regardless of what country they come from, are pointing upward," Wax said. "They [the verses] are, when someone shares them, making a statement about their [the person's] own being, to be reoriented to things that are above, not things on the earth."

"What we are seeing in global engagement is exciting to us because with every verse highlighted, plan day completed, or audio chapter listened to, that's a person who is being transformed by knowing God more intimately through spending time in the Bible," said YouVersion founder Bobby Greunewald in a release.

YouVersion also partners with illumiNations to develop Bible translations.

Their goal by 2033 is that 95 percent of the world's population will have a complete Bible, 99.9 percent will have a complete New Testament and 100 percent will have at least some part of Scripture translated in their native language.

"The importance of the Bible cannot be overstated for the health and life of the Christian church," Wax said.

In many cases of Bible translation there may not even be a written language, Wax said. The translation of the Bible goes beyond sharing the Gospel to bringing a sense of cohesion to the language itself.

"It's an honor and a privilege to have God's Word," Wax said. Witnessing others receive a Bible for the first time can shake out the complacency some may have toward the Bible.

"We grow familiar with the world-shattering impact of the Gospel," Wax said.

YouVersion's goal for future Bible translations should be a reminder of the power of God's Word and is something we should be very grateful for, Wax said.

Wax noted that the sheer number of app downloads and level of engagement with the Bible through the app during 2019 is encouraging because it shows the level of connection points people are having with Scripture.

However, connection to individual verses is not truly enough for a lifetime of faithful, biblical study, Wax said.

"I think we celebrate this because its people connecting to the Bible," Wax said. "But on the other hand, we as the church have our work cut out for us in making sure that engagement leads to a fuller immersion in the passages of Scripture that may be more obscure but that are all pointing us to the Gospel and leading to life transformation." Read more...

BP News Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 12:28pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week's Bible study is adapted from the Explore the Bible curriculum.

Bible Passage: Numbers 20:1-13

Discussion Questions:

-- What does the way a leader responds to criticism reveal about his or her character?

-- How can a believer deal with criticism in a God-honoring way?

Food for thought:

Arthur Flake outlined a simple plan for growing an ongoing Bible study ministry, which he called Sunday School. That plan came to be known as Flake's Formula and included these elements: Know the possibilities, Expand the organization, Enlist and train leaders, Provide resources, and Go after the people. In his notes, Flake identified two objections he expected to hear from his critics: It won't work here and We tried that. Most leaders have encountered these same two, tiring objections at some point in their lives.

In Numbers 20, we find Moses yet again being badgered by the Hebrews. He was grieving the death of his sister -- the person who watched him float in a basket as a baby before being rescued by Pharaoh's daughter -- but his grief did not deter his critics. Moses and the Hebrews were in Kadesh and in need of water -- again. One might think by now the Hebrews would have known God would provide, but that does not appear to be the case. Instead they bring their complaints to Moses with accusations and regrets. Moses and Aaron put their personal grief aside and humbly approached God. God showed up and gave them a plan of action without them even asking. Problem solved.

Our only refuge is going to God and seeing His counsel. Once He provides us with that counsel, we then can act with confidence. Unfortunately, Moses and Aaron did everything right, except follow to the letter what God told them to do. They struck the rock just as they had done in the past, but God had told them to speak to the rock.

Criticism can wear on the strongest of people, especially when they are dealing with a personal loss. We can know that even in the most difficult of circumstances and when facing our harshest critics, we can depend upon God to identify our next steps. Our responsibility is to obey, following exactly what He directs us to do.

Explore the Bible
Explore the Bible is an ongoing Bible study curriculum that helps groups dig into the key truths of each Bible book, while keeping the group on pace to study through the Bible books in a systematic way. More information can be found at

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at or ordered at LifeWay Christian Stores.


BP News Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 12:00pm
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- If you're heading to Mount Harmony Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., you don't need to stop at a fancy coffee shop on your way to church. Multi-flavored coffees and lattes will be ready for you when you arrive, served by smiling baristas. Donations at the coffee counter raise money for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but also raise awareness about the offering's namesake.

"I didn't just want it to be a table with people coming up to give money and get a latte," says Emily Sheddan, who started "Lattes for Lottie" in her church in 2017. "It was on my heart to get them involved and really know who Lottie was."

Sheddan, the daughter of IMB missionaries, grew up in Southeast Asia and remembers learning about Lottie Moon. As an adult, she noticed that many people in local churches didn't know about the feisty missionary. Those who did not participate in missions education programs, like Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors, may never have learned about Lottie.

"It wasn't just a name of an offering, but was indeed a sweet soul who went forth," Sheddan says. "I feel like it has to be pushed out there that she's an actual person in history that we speak of, not just the name of the Christmas mission offering."

Each year, Sheddan refines the process and introduces new ways to teach church members about Lottie Moon and about current missions efforts. In past years she has distributed quizzes about Lottie's life and used displays that taught more about the missionary to China. This month, she is displaying an IMB map that features unreached people groups. Each time someone buys a latte, Sheddan adds a "Send and Go" pin to an unreached area of the world.

As for the lattes, Sheddan prepares batches in crockpots and offers flavored syrups, espresso and whipped cream at the counter. Church members stop by before Sunday School or before the worship service and add their donations to a collection box. Sheddan enlists youth from the church to don the barista aprons, and together they serve up the hot treats. The team even adds the special touch of shaking the beverages in mason jars before serving, to add the frothy effect common in coffee shop lattes.

Elijah Morton, 15, is taking his place as a volunteer barista for a third straight year. "My friends and I enjoy it and we always make it a blast," Morton says, "whether we are making coffee, having competitions of who can make the best whipped cream swirl, or just chatting while we have downtime."

Morton credits Lattes for Lottie for helping grow his own understanding of missions. "It has helped me understand why we do this, why we need to reach other states, countries, nations. It's all for the glory of God and I realize that now, by seeing people with loving hearts give to see more people get to know the Lord," he says.

This year Sheddan hopes that latte donations will raise $800 toward their church's LMCO goal. With her own missions experience and with her parents still serving on the field, she has personal connections and the knowledge of how those contributions make a difference in the lives of missionaries. This month, she is sharing her love of missions through a latte for Lottie, with or without a whipped cream swirl on top.

Read more about the missionary Lottie Moon and learn more about giving to the offering named in her honor. Read more...

BP News Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 11:56am
EDITOR'S NOTE: Modern hymn writer Keith Getty has written a series of essays, each focusing on a Christmas hymn or carol. This is the eighth of an 11-part series in Baptist Press.

NASHVILLE (BP) -- This is such a beautiful carol. It's one of the most joyful and well-written choruses ever composed. The English version was written in 1862 by James Chadwick, a Roman Catholic bishop in the northeast of England, and is most often sung to the tune of a traditional French carol 'Gloria.'

The lyrics are based on an original French song 'Les Anges dans nos campagnes' (literally 'the angels in our countryside'). It depicts the story of the nativity as told in Luke 2, where a whole company of angelic hosts appear to a small group of unassuming shepherds in the countryside.

Shepherds, why this jubilee?

Why your joyous strains prolong?

What the gladsome tidings be?

Which inspire your heavenly songs?

As the angels gather in the night sky, they proclaim: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).

And this is where the song's memorable refrain comes from -- the line 'Glory to God in the Highest heaven,' translated into Latin becomes:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

And it's sung with that wonderfully prolonged 'o' of Gloria which is such a delight to sing and captures something of the joy and reverence of heaven.

My favorite verse is the fourth one:

Come to Bethlehem to see

him whose birth the angels sing

Come adore on bended knee

Christ the Lord the new-born King

What must it have been like for the shepherds to witness a sky full of worshiping angels 2,000 years ago? It must have been incredible. With this carol we are invited to join in with their worship and to add volume to the heavenly sound as we declare the birth of our King.

A great Christian life, or a great sermon, or a great song have a way of showing Christ to be so vast and glorious that our response can only be to humble ourselves, to bow down on bended knee and to acknowledge and be in awe of the greatness of our God. I think this carol enables us to do that really well.

About Keith & Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit


BP News Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 4:00pm
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- Clarence Odbody was an angel sent to earth to earn his wings by being the guardian angel of George Bailey. George was despondent over his bank being on the verge of failure and decided to end his life. But Clarence saved George by showing him the good he had accomplished in the lives of those in Bedford Falls, his hometown.

When George reunited with his family on Christmas Eve, and after the bank had been saved through generous donations from those who appreciated him, a bell on the Christmas tree rings. George's daughter, ZuZu, says to her father, "Look, Daddy. Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." George then looks toward heaven with a grateful, "Attaboy, Clarence!" Who doesn't shed a tear at that fabulous scene at the end of the perennial Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life?"

The bell in It's a Wonderful Life was a brilliant device because bells are such a part of the holiday season. We hear church bells ringing, Salvation Army workers ringing their handbells as they receive donations, and -- if we're fortunate -- we get to hear the jingle bells on the harness of a horse as it plows through a snowy wonderland.

The bell that rang when Clarence Odbody got his wings was a sign that he had done a good deed -- saving George Bailey. But in another sense, it was recognition of all the good deeds that George Bailey had done for others. He had given up his dream of traveling the world to stay in Bedford Falls after his father died suddenly. And he treated his savings and loan customers like they were family. George Bailey learned a powerful lesson -- that doing good for others is part of the Christmas spirit. And he was reminded of this when he heard that little bell ring.

This should be a reminder to us all that Christmas includes the theme of doing good for others, just as others -- especially God -- have done for us.

Spirit of God, Spirit of Good

Christmas is the perfect time to jingle some bells of our own and demonstrate God's grace toward the world by touching the lives of others. Don't forget: We are saved "by grace ... through faith.... For good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christmas represents the greatest good work by God for mankind -- sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world for our salvation.

In December 1891 a Salvation Army worker named Joseph McFee had an idea: He wanted to provide a free Christmas dinner to poor residents of the San Francisco Bay area. As he prayed, images from his days as a sailor came to mind. In Liverpool, England, he remembered a large pot being set up on the dock to receive donations for the poor from incoming sailors. So McFee asked city officials for permission to hang a crab pot at the Oakland ferry landing -- a place where donations for the poor could be placed. And it worked! He raised enough money to feed a thousand hungry souls. That crab pot has since turned into the red kettles that appear every Christmas in 120 countries around the world, all for the same purpose as McFee's: to help the needy at the most generous season of the year.

The Salvation Army is, of course, a Christian charitable ministry. Where the Spirit of God is, the spirit of good is not far behind.

Christmas Bells

The composer of the song "Jingle Bells" (James Lord Pierpont, 1850), meant for "jingle" to be interpreted as an imperative verb, as in "jingle your bells." It was common in his day for horse harnesses to be fitted with bells so that horse-drawn sleighs, which make little noise in the snow, could be heard as they approached a blind intersection, avoiding a crash.

Just as bells announce an approaching sleigh, we should consider letting our works announce the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives this Christmas. Ask God to show you someone you can bless with a gift of kindness -- whether a material gift, a meal, an invitation, a kind word, or another form of blessing. You won't win a set of angel wings if you do, but you will be blessed as you bless others (1 Peter 3:9).


BP News Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:46pm
EDITOR'S NOTE: Modern hymn writer Keith Getty has written a series of essays, each focusing on a Christmas hymn or carol. This is the seventh of an 11-part series in Baptist Press.

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Arguably the best-known Christmas carol in the world, "Silent Night" has been translated into 300 languages and dialects, and in 2011 was included in UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It's clearly a carol that resonates with people everywhere.

Silent Night's lyrics and melody combine to give it a gentle, almost lullaby-like quality. It's also the most beautiful carol to sing in harmony.

Originally, it was a poem with six verses written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr, an Austrian priest. On Christmas Eve in 1818, Mohr asked the parish organist, Franz Gruber, to compose a melody for the poem. But, unfortunately, the church organ had broken down, so Silent Night has the distinction of being one of the first hymns ever to be accompanied by the guitar.

Mohr lived through the Napoleonic wars, which ended in 1816, and witnessed the suffering and oppression of his nation. In 1816, he was anxiously awaiting the liberation of his hometown of Salzburg from the Bavarian occupation. It is believed that Mhor wrote Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! as an expression of his longing for peace and freedom.

The repetition in each stanza of the line 'Silent Night, Holy Night' evokes tranquility, stillness, mystery -- a heart's cry for the kind of peace that only Jesus can bring.

Alongside its origins as a carol born out of a longing for an end to division and turmoil in the 19th century, it's also historically associated with the Christmas truce of the First World War. Although accounts differ, it is believed to have been the hymn sung on both sides of the trenches, in German and in English, as the soldiers briefly put down their weapons on Christmas Eve 1914.

Most hymnbooks include only three verses of Mohr's original six: the first, second and last. But, for me, some of the little-known verses are actually the best ones. And I'm hoping to showcase these at our Christmas concerts this year.

The original middle three stanzas of Mohr's poem focus on God's love and salvation, His embracing of all people, and the wonder of the incarnation.

[Verse 3]

Silent Night! Holy Night!

Brought the world gracious light

Down from heaven's golden height

Comes to us the glorious sight:

Jesus, as one of mankind

Jesus, as one of mankind

The fifth verse emphasizes God's longing to draw all people to Himself. It reminds us that Jesus' birth, death and resurrection is evidence of God's love for ALL mankind. No one is excluded. His love breaks down all the man-made barriers, divisions and prejudices that are found at the heart of all conflict. Anyone can receive God's love and salvation because God's ultimate purpose is to draw all people to Himself.

[Verse 5]

Silent Night! Holy Night!

Long ago, minding our plight

God the world from misery freed

In the dark age of our fathers decreed:

All the world is redeemed

All the world is redeemed

Today it is still sung, often by candlelight, to close Christmas Eve services around the world. Whether we sing the familiar three-verse carol or sing it in its entirety, Silent Night really is a celebration of the peace and reconciliation we can experience through Christ becoming flesh for us.

About Keith & Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit


BP News Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:34pm
COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) -- Sharing the love of the Christmas season came through individual gifts to every inmate in South Carolina this year, provided by churches and associations in the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC).

The prisoner packet ministry has been going on for the past 40 years.

Jon Jamison, serve team leader of South Carolina Baptist Convention, said the point of the ministry is to tangibly serve the inmates and provide opportunities for them to hear the Gospel.

The gifts are collected throughout the year and packaged and delivered during the Christmas season.

The SCBC requests a specific number of packets from their 2,125 churches and 42 associations.

Each association commits to gathering a specific number of packets with some delivering 50-75, while others collect as many as 1,200.

The final numbers depend on the total prison population in South Carolina and the amount of participation from each association.

This year, 19,825 total packages were delivered, Jamison said. The partnership between the SCBC and the individual associations is what makes the ministry possible.

The items in the gift packets are pre-approved by the state's Department of Corrections and include things like toothpaste and a toothbrush, writing pads, pens, candy, soap and envelopes.

In addition to the practical items, each package includes other elements that are meant to minister to the hearts of the inmates. Each inmate receives a Christmas card and a 30-day devotional, provided by the SCBC.

After the bags are assembled by the associations, they are processed and reviewed in one location by volunteers over the course of one morning to ensure they comply with all regulations.

The gifts then are combined into large bags each holding around 25 packets, and picked up by prison chaplains from the 21 institutions in South Carolina to deliver them to their respective institution.

Jamison said there are generally 75-80 volunteers processing and delivering the packets.

In addition to those volunteers, about 30 inmates help with the gifts.

Volunteers and staff of the convention believe the gifts will bring hope to the hearts of the inmates as for most of them, this will be the only gift they receive.

"I believe Jesus always moved toward the vulnerable and marginalized," Jamison said. "I try to follow Him into those areas in my community. My interest in this ministry stems from my desire to see the church make meaningful relationships and serve effectively within community."

Inmates who received the gifts said they were grateful for the reminder that they are not forgotten and that they are loved, reported ACB Columbia.

"Sometimes we feel like we're forgotten. So it's a blessing to be able to get gifts from people that don't even know us," Angela, an inmate, said.

Another inmate, James, said "You see a card that says 'Merry Christmas.' And this does make our Christmas more merry. To show us that you love us means everything." Read more...

BP News Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:19pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Reform of the criminal justice system and ministry to prisoners both provide important opportunities for Christian involvement, panelists said at a Southern Baptist-sponsored forum in Nashville.

Spokesmen from the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's office and Prison Fellowship addressed criminal justice and rehabilitation as part of the ERLC Leadership Luncheon event Dec. 3 at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville.

"[I]t's easy for us to kind of put out of our mind the incarcerated population -- sort of throw away the key, lock them up and don't think about them," said Daniel Darling, the ERLC's vice president for communications.

The data demonstrate "simply incarcerating a lot of people doesn't actually make us safer," he told the audience of pastors, leaders and other Christians from Middle Tennessee. "But rehabilitation and getting people back on their feet and having real pathways for people to change is really important, not just for the dignity of the incarcerated population but also for public safety."

Joseph Williams, the governor's director of external affairs and a member of his senior staff, said it is "not only all right but incumbent upon Christians to say, 'These actually aren't political issues; these aren't ideological debates; these are about human beings, victims, perpetrators, broken families, hopelessness.'"

In doing so, he said, Christians are saying, "[W]e are called to be salt; we are called to be light; and therefore we are going to engage in these issues -- not in the ways that the world does, not in the battles as they are waged on the political battlegrounds but instead as Christ did, as our Savior did."

Ministry to inmates is a "great place to start" for pastors and church members in breaking "the cycle of crime," said Craig DeRoche, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy for Prison Fellowship. People all have the same problems, he said. "They look like fear and selfishness and guilt and shame and anger.... And Christ can solve those problems. So we don't need unhealthy solutions. That's the mechanics of breaking the cycle of crime in a person."

The panel discussion followed an interview of Lee by ERLC president Russell Moore. In the interview, Lee explained his promotion of criminal justice reform in Tennessee came as a result of mentoring a man coming out of prison before he ran for governor.

Since being elected governor in 2018, Lee has maintained his mentoring role and has introduced the Volunteer Mentorship Initiative, which encourages Tennesseans to advise inmates. Assigned to implement the initiative, Williams said its goal is to bring people face to face with incarcerated people, "because once you do that, you can't deny the imago dei" -- the biblical doctrine that every human being has dignity because he or she is made in the image of God.

The biblical view of humanity calls for both ministry and accountability, panelists told moderator Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC's director of strategic partnerships.

"God didn't make any throwaway people -- even someone who's never going to leave prison," DeRoche said. "How do we know where they rank in God's eyes? [T]hey can be of service. And they can be redeemed in Christ. And they can contribute back and bring people to the cross."

Christians care about the dignity of both the victim and perpetrator, Darling said.

"And part of that is holding [perpetrators] accountable as human beings before the state, which has been given authority by God," he told attendees. "We consider them to be human beings, which means they have accountability and responsibility. But also, we care about the whole person -- that we want a justice system that not only punishes them for their crime but also at least offers them a path to rehabilitation."

In a representative form of government, Christians and other Americans "share in the shaping of the governments and the systems that are in our communities," Darling said. "[We are] constantly looking at the systems of criminal justice and saying, 'Are these working well for people, for human flourishing? Are they not only keeping us safe, but are they allowing people to rebuild their lives and is there incentive for people to not stay in the system?'"

The ERLC and other organizations have joined Prison Fellowship in its efforts at criminal justice reform in recent years. A significant victory in that campaign came last December with the bipartisan passage and signing into law by President Trump of the First Step Act. The new law is designed to promote the rehabilitation and societal re-entry of prisoners while maintaining public safety.

In 2017, the ERLC and two other organizations joined Prison Fellowship in issuing a call for a "fair and redemptive" justice system. The Justice Declaration urged followers of Jesus to support "proportional punishment," care for victims of crime, minister to the families of prisoners, preach the Gospel and disciple incarcerated men and women. The National Association of Evangelicals and Colson Center for Christian Worldview also joined in the initiative.

At the 2013 SBC meeting, messengers approved a resolution expressing "support of legislative policies that seek to reduce high incarceration rates without jeopardizing public safety" and affirmed that "probation and parole may serve as a wise, just, and effective alternative to prolonged incarceration for certain nonviolent offenders."

BP News Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:15pm
JAPAN (BP) -- The Walkers' family history was intertwined with Japan long before they landed there. Cornelia's father was an Army Air Force pilot who flew bombing missions in Japan during World War II. Carlton Walker's father was in the infantry and served in Japan after the war officially ended. He was tasked with checking homes and public places for weapons.

Carlton remembers his father's compassionate heart for the Japanese people.

"He never spoke critically of the Japanese. In his mind, they were the most hard-working, disciplined, studious people in the world. He learned a little Japanese and would still try it out on us up until the last years of his life," Carlton said.

Carlton and Cornelia Walker, IMB missionaries, have devoted 40 years of their lives to telling the Japanese people about God's love for them.

When Cornelia's parents visited them in Japan, Cornelia and Carlton introduced her parents to the Yamakawas, a couple from their church. Mrs. Yamakawa knew Cornelia's father, Dr. Graham, was a pilot and had a role in bombing Japan during the war. She shared how she still remembered the sounds of the Grumman aircraft as they flew overhead and how much fear that caused her as a young girl. The former pilot was touched that she remembered both the name and the sound of that particular aircraft, because he operated those same planes.

Dr. Graham turned to Mrs. Yamakawa and said, "I am so sorry that I had a part in killing your people, causing fear in your heart, and damaging your beautiful country."

Mrs. Yamakawa replied, "Sir, you were doing your duty, and we don't hold it against you."

On that day, an American man and a Japanese woman found forgiveness and reconciliation.

"Two different people, who were destined to be enemies, were friends that evening," Carlton said. "It is remarkable to me that the generation who lived through World War II holds so few grudges against the United States."

Carlton said Japanese people have a deep understanding of duty and obligation, and frequently these core values override what they see as the luxury of personal opinion and feelings. The duty to serve one's country surpasses the personal consequences of actions.

"It is our desire as missionaries that the same country that barters and trades in obligation and duty will soon come to Christ in record numbers and their commitment and loyalty to Christ will be an inspiration to all," Carlton said.

Trading duty and obligation for grace

Making personal and individual decisions goes against Japanese cultural mores, so choosing to follow Jesus, not out of a sense of duty, but because of a change of heart in response to the grace and mercy of God, is difficult for Japanese people.

"We speak of the amazing freedom, the no-strings-attached acceptance and the unconditional love that Christ provides, which is, in essence, the good news of the love of God found in Jesus," Carlton said. "For those who struggle with layers and layers of duty, obligation, responsibility, and pressure to conform, we voice the good news that we can come to Christ just as we are."

However, one of the major challenges for Japanese is that this free gift sounds too good to be true. Or if it is true, then it must cost something. In Japanese culture, gifts come with the obligation to give something in return.

"Japan is a reciprocal society. Generally speaking, when a Japanese receives a gift, they mark it down figuratively and often literally. If you give me something today, then I feel an obligation to give you something of equal value," Carlton said. "It won't do if I give you less in return. Or if I give you far more in return, I obligate the other person, which often serves to make them uncomfortable."

"So, often we present Jesus as the one who breaks this endless cycle of obligation," Carlton said. "We can never pay Him back enough, even if we tried, so just rest in the reality that He will not love us any more if we do or don't. One can truly learn how to love recklessly and extravagantly when we are freed from obligation, duty, and shame."

Taking grace to the business world

Carlton aims to share this gift of God's grace that is free of obligation with Japanese businessmen -- a demographic that operates within the confines of duty and obligation. Businessmen work long hours, and their jobs revolve around their obligation to honor their supervisors and their duty to provide for their families.

Carlton and his local ministry partner have made inroads into the business community through social media campaigns, seminars and visits from a U.S. Bank executive who frequently travels to Japan to partner with Carlton. They have started inductive Bible studies for businessmen in five areas of Tokyo. The studies give businessmen who've committed their lives to Christ the tools, and eventually the roles, to lead the groups.

Though there are growing numbers of Christian men in Japan, women comprise two-thirds of the church there. Carlton's passion is to see more Japanese men commit their lives to Christ.

Sharing God's grace during the Olympics

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will give the Walkers and other IMB missionaries in Japan an opportunity to share the Gospel with many more Japanese people. Volunteer teams from the States will join IMB missionaries and Japanese Christians to spread a message of hope and grace that transcends personal and national duties. Ongoing engagement with the people they meet during the games will be a long-term strategy of IMB missionaries, Japanese churches and English-speaking churches.

Carlton, who is looking forward to serving during the Olympics for a second time, recalled the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

"It was a marvelous time because I got to be with Japanese people, and that's who I'm called to be working with," Carlton said. "That's what makes me alive, that's what makes me cry, when I realize there are not as many here [in the church] that need to be."

And Carlton shared his vision for the future of the Japanese people.

"I dream of the day when Japanese people will stand up in heaven and say, 'Seinaru kana, seinaru kana, seinaru kana' to the Lord God in heaven, which means 'Holy, holy, holy Lord God' in Japanese," Carlton said. "That's what I want to see in heaven."

Join the Walkers in prayer for the Japanese people. Pray that they will gladly receive God's free gift of grace. Order IMB's prayer guide for specific prayer requests for Japan.

Visit the Connect 2020 site to find out how you can be involved with the ministry of IMB missionaries during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Read more...

BP News Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 2:40pm
NAIROBI (BP) -- Suspected members of Somali Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab intercepted a bus in northern Kenya Friday Dec. 6, separated out those who were not local ethnic Somali Muslims and executed them, sources said.

The Medina Bus Co. vehicle in route from Nairobi to Mandera had 56 people aboard when it was intercepted at 5:30 p.m. between Kutulu and Wargadud in Wajir County, where the population is largely ethnic Somali Kenyans, sources said.

A witness who escaped told a Morning Star News contact that the assailants separated out 11 Kenyan workers, assumed to be Christians, from local residents, assumed to be ethnic Somali Muslims.

"One of the Muslim men gave me Somali attire, and when the separation was being done I went to the side of the Muslims, and immediately we were told to get into the bus," the survivor told the Morning Star News contact. "As the locals were getting back into the bus, the non-locals who were left behind were fired upon with gunshots."

The bus was stopped as the workers were returning to their station in Mandera, he said.

"I think the attackers were monitoring our traveling all the way from Nairobi," he said. "The militants knew that we were not armed."

Two of the victims were teachers identified as evangelical Christians, but their names were withheld pending official notification of relatives, another source said.

"We have lost two teachers who used to attend our church," the source from a congregation in northern Kenya [undisclosed for security reasons] told Morning Star News.

A third victim was a doctor who belonged to an Africa Inland Church congregation, the source said, and three others were said to be Roman Catholics.

The religious affiliation of five other people killed was yet to be determined at this writing.

Al Shabaab, which is waging war against the government of neighboring Somalia, reportedly took responsibility for the attack, saying victims included "secret security agents and government employees."

Official information about the attack was inconsistent.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that several police officers were among eight people killed, and a police source told Agence France-Presse that seven of a total of 10 people killed were officers.

Al Shabaab, which is allied with Al Qaeda or Al Shabaab sympathizers, have killed several non-local people in northern Kenya since 2011 when Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya's coast.

Al Shabaab militants were suspected in the killing of two Christian teachers Oct. 10, 2018.

An attack by Al Shabaab at Garissa University College April 2, 2015, also led to 148 people losing their lives.

Several other attacks on churches and Christians have taken place in Garissa, also in northern Kenya.

Somalia's constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department.

It also requires that laws comply with Islamic law principles with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.

Somalia is ranked third on Christian support group Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian; Kenya is ranked 40th.

BP News Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 2:23pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Peter Yanes has been named executive director of Asian American relations and mobilization at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. The new role is a partnership, jointly funded by the EC and the North American Mission Board with the primary focus of bringing more Asian American churches into the Southern Baptist family.

"Peter Yanes comes highly recommended from across Southern Baptist life," said Ronnie Floyd, EC president and CEO. "He has a strong knowledge of who we are as Southern Baptists, has been engaged with us for years in serving and leading, and has a great passion for God to use him to fulfill our vision of relating to and mobilizing Asian American churches to reach the world for Christ."

"With Peter's winsome personality and love for people, we believe he can bring great value to our work as Southern Baptists. Peter and Irene are an outstanding, godly couple with a passion to reach people for Jesus Christ," Floyd said.

"Peter has a great heart for the Gospel and he loves people," NAMB president Kevin Ezell said in a statement to Baptist Press. "Southern Baptists have much ground to make up in order to catch up with the huge growth in the Asian American population. I am thrilled that we can join with the SBC Executive Committee in this effort."

Yanes has served as interim senior pastor of South Jersey Bible Church International in Pitman, N.J., since September 2018. Prior to that, he served as a North American Mission Board catalytic language missionary and church planting catalyst with the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey and held pastoral roles in churches in the Philippines and the United States beginning in 1992.

"I am grateful to God for the privilege of being part of an intentional missional partnership among our Asian American leaders with SBC entities and churches, in obedience to the Great Commission for His glory," Yanes told Baptist Press. "My utmost desire in life is to faithfully serve my Lord and my Savior Jesus Christ with the prayerful support of my family."

Floyd announced Nov. 1 the addition of three full-time EC staff positions that would focus on increasing diverse engagement. This is the second of the roles to be filled, following the November appointment of Julio Arriola as executive director of Hispanic relations. Yanes will work with other EC offices and NAMB to develop and implement strategies for the involvement and participation of Asian American churches and church leaders across the SBC. This will include promoting active participation at every level of Convention life as well as increased Cooperative Program understanding and involvement among Asian American churches.

Over the past two decades, the number of Asian congregations in the SBC has increased by 79 percent -- from 1,158 in 1998 to 2,073 in 2017.

"I am honored with this new role of serving alongside my Asian American brethren with our Executive Committee team, and I request everyone's prayers, cooperation and partnership as we diligently engage our respective communities and beyond with the Gospel," Yanes said.

Yanes received his Master of Divinity degree from Cairn University in Longhorn, Pa., and a Master of Pastoral Ministries degree from the Philippines extension of the Golden State School of Theology. He holds an undergraduate degree from Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Rizal, Philippines.

Peter is married to Irene, and they have two children -- Christian, a junior at Bucknell University, and Shekinah, a freshman at Villanova University.

BP News Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 2:21pm
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- This year I am celebrating my 50th year focused on teenagers and the adults important to teenagers. What a blessing it has been for the Lord to give me this ministry focused on youth for my lifetime. Yet, after a half-century in this vital ministry, I've come to the inescapable conclusion a radical reevaluation is desperately needed if we wish to see more enduring faith in our youth after they become adults.

Whether as a youth pastor, youth ministry consultant at LifeWay Christian Resources, or presently as a professor in the School of Educational Ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, my singular focus has been on ministry to and with teenagers for the glory of God. Sometimes people ask me to evaluate where we are in youth ministry today, given my half-century in the trenches. My thoughts about youth ministry include both good news and bad news.

The good news is that across the years, hundreds of thousands of teenagers have been introduced to Jesus, discipled, equipped and mobilized for kingdom activity. Most of the adults through whom Christ is extending his kingdom today are a product of local church youth ministries. I join parents, senior pastors, youth pastors and lay leaders in celebrating ministries with teenagers that have carried the aroma of Jesus and have pushed back the darkness.

While I celebrate all that has been done, I believe the current model of youth ministry is hopelessly flawed in several ways. This is a difficult admission on my part, especially as I've given my entire ministry to this model. Nevertheless, we must face the truth that the current approach to youth ministry is just not working very well.

Most leaders now know what happens when church teenagers approach high school graduation. Among those who attended most of their lives, half leave the church, according to Ben Trueblood at LifeWay and Kara Powell at Fuller Seminary. Christian Smith of the National Study of Youth and Religion research project uncovered another fact almost as distressing. Forty percent become adult church members who do not know even basic beliefs and do not make a difference for the faith. That means only 10 percent of those the church invested in for 18 years continue to love God, love people and make disciples.

Who wants to continue approaches that launch only 10 percent of young believers to change the world? The following shortfalls may be the most important.

1. Most churches have lost focus on evangelizing lost teenagers outside the walls of the church. Consequently, youth baptisms are dropping like an anvil in the ocean. If teenagers only hear and respond to the Gospel while attending church, most of the next generation will spend their eternity in torment.

2. Most churches keep teenagers encased in a youth ministry silo. That 1950s style of youth ministry does not create young adults who love the bride of Christ. Teenagers often speak of their love for the youth group and seldom speak of their love for the church. I strongly believe in age-group ministries. But we must give teenagers many more heart connections with the congregation and many new ways to do ministry side-by-side with the adult church.

3. Most churches provide Bible studies geared to all teenagers, including lost teenagers and shallow believers. Those studies are vital, but few churches also provide intensive discipleship for those teenagers who are endeavoring to follow Jesus. The absence of weekly discipleship groups means we are creating young adults with little background in biblical interpretation, apologetics, core doctrines, worldview, missions, ethics and other vital disciplines that are necessary for a mature, enduring faith.

4. Most churches are not discipling and equipping parents to spiritually lead their teenage children. Churches may announce, "We champion parents as primary spiritual leaders," but I see little actual movement in that direction. Tragically, even parents involved in the church are giving their primary loyalty to a new trinity -- athletics, academics and the arts. Sunday morning worship is an option only on weekends no other activities are on the calendar.

I strongly support much of what makes up local church youth ministry. I strongly support youth pastors. In fact, I believe youth pastors will become even more valuable as the church makes adjustments to make lifetime faith more common.

After 50 years, the time has come for substantial change in how the church impacts the lives of teenagers. The changes needed are not a mystery. Scripture shows us how to move forward. The best research supports those same changes. We just need tens of thousands of senior pastors to lead the entire church in new directions. If they do, we will begin to see many more young believers become world-changing disciples for a lifetime.

BP News Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 1:14pm
EDITOR'S NOTE: Modern hymn writer Keith Getty has written a series of essays, each focusing on a Christmas hymn or carol. This is the sixth of an 11-part series in Baptist Press.

NASHVILLE, (BP) -- The very first talk I gave in the U.S. was at Harvard University -- I had been asked to give a talk on hymns at Phillips Brooks House, a rather stately-looking building on the campus named after an influential mid-19th century preacher and overseer of Harvard.

Brooks was also a hymn writer and the author of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," which he was inspired to write after a visit to Bethlehem in 1865. He wrote it three years later for a Sunday school class, and neither he nor Lewis Redner, the composer of the original melody, thought it would last beyond Christmas 1868. But the powerful simplicity of the carol's lyrics has ensured its longevity.

There are now two main melodies -- the original U.S. version by Redner and a British version by Vaughn Williams. At our Christmas concerts we alternate the melodies; we do two verses of each in our arrangement.

This carol takes us on a wonderful journey from the past to the present. We start by looking down on the town where Jesus' birth takes place, with the line, "How still we see thee lie." It reminds us that Bethlehem barely stirs as the most significant event in the history of the world unfolds beneath its starry sky. It emphasizes the almost stealth-like appearance of Jesus as a baby, born in humble circumstances, born 'while mortals sleep,' with only the angels and a group of unsuspecting shepherds as witnesses to this momentous occasion.

And then we are reminded that this event is about so much more than the birth of a baby in a small, seemingly insignificant town in a Middle Eastern country; it's about the Light of the World overcoming the darkness.

Yet in the dark street shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

The last two verses move us on from that historic moment and lead us to the present. Now we consider how this baby, this gift of God has changed history and how His birth and ultimately His death and resurrection have enabled us to be reconciled to God.

My favorite verse is the third one:

How silently, how silently

The wondrous Gift is given

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven

No ear may hear His coming

But in this world of sin

Where meek souls will receive Him still

The dear Christ enters in

In the midst of the often chaotic Christmas season, a season that can be one of celebration but also one of regret, disappointment and guilt, the beautiful words of this verse remind us that in the midst of all this, in the middle of our strivings, Jesus is longing to meet with us but He humbly waits for us to welcome Him in: "where meek souls will receive Him still." Still, even today, He enters in. What an amazing offer!

It can be easy to forget the potency of the words of this carol; yet it is essentially an invitation for people to receive and experience the new birth and new life that Jesus offers. "Be born in us today" -- this new life is available to anyone who will receive it. As we sing this song in our Christmas church services, we can be sure that there will be people who need to hear this, who need to know that Jesus' birth isn't just a historical fact but something that can make a difference to their lives today.

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born in us today

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

Oh, come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Immanuel!

Finally, the last verse finishes on the triumphal note of hope and assurance that God is with us. That He has chosen to abide with us. That He is not distant but close. That He is Immanuel. It's incredible!

About Keith & Kristyn Getty

Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers whose compositions are sung the world over. For more information on Getty Music and the Sing! initiative, visit

BP News Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 11:26am
EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention was Dec. 1-8, focusing on Revelation 7:9 ("I saw a great multitude from every nation and all tribes ….") The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $165 million.

QUEBEC, Canada (BP) -- Jacques* had a head full of questions. He had wrestled with them his whole life, and when he joined the soccer team at his university, he brought them with him.

Robert Pinkston saw them -- and he knew he had answers.

"Jacques told me that since he was a young child, he would always look at nature and the world and say, 'There is no way this is here by accident,'" Pinkston, who volunteers as an assistant soccer coach at Jacques's university, said. "He said that the evolution he was learning in school, he just couldn't swallow it."

So Pinkston began to talk with him during the pregame devotionals that he held for anyone who wanted to come. He began meeting up with Jacques for coffee, too, and talking with him about God and faith.

And then one day Jacques came to Robert's church plant, and when it was time for communion, he got in line to receive it. When he picked up the bread and the cup, he came and stood in front of Robert.

"He said, 'If I understand right, this represents the body of Christ that has been broken for me and the blood of Christ that has been shed for me.' And then he said, 'I accept,'" Pinkston recalled. "It was kind of his conversion moment."

In the weeks and months that followed, Jacques became a strong leader in the church and campus ministry, always trying to be a light for Christ wherever he went.

It was an encouragement for IMB missionaries Pinkston and his wife Sharon, who serve among the 8 million Quebecois, or French Canadians -- only 0.5 percent of whom believe in Christ. Quebec's university campuses are especially dark places. A recent LifeWay Research study showed that all of the top 50 most unreached campuses in North America are in Canada. Of those, 34 are in Quebec.

"We have very little access to those campuses," Pinkston said. "They call these the Forgotten Fifty, because basically they're campuses no one is trying to reach."

But the Pinkstons are finding creative ways to get the Gospel in, like coaching soccer and establishing ministry houses close to campus to host students for meals.

Pinkston says he believes that if Quebecois could just hear the Gospel, they would respond.

"So many of my friends, when they hear me give a Gospel presentation, they say, 'That's exactly what I've been looking for,'" he said. "They have lots of questions about life, and not that they're necessarily searching for it in the church, but when they do run into us and we start a dialogue, it really connects with them and they want to know more. They have an open heart right now."

-- PRAY FOR Missionaries like the Pinkstons to be effective in strategizing ways to reach Quebec's college campuses with the Gospel.

-- PRAY FOR The hearts of the Quebecois students to be open to the Gospel as they search for truth.

*Name changed.