The 12 Days of Christmas Challenge

It’s finally here! The 12 Days of Christmas Challenge (12DoCC).

First, let me give you a very brief history of how I came to this point of setting and getting involved in the challenge.

Almost 2 years ago, we planted a church in our home and after much though, discussion and prayer we decided it should be called ‘Hands and Feet‘. Why? Because we believed that God was calling us to be His Hands and Feet in our community – in fact we believe that he calls ALL of us to be his hands and feet in our communities.

Recently God has stirred us up and awakened our hearts to the fact that we have been apathetic, we have not been his Hands and Feet, we’ve just talked about it a lot and occasionally we have been His checkbook.

He called us to seek Him and as we have been doing so I have been wondering what more could we have done? What does being His hands and feet mean? What is God asking of us?

The answer has resoundingly come back as simply this: die to yourselves.

Really die to yourselves. Become living sacrifices.

The word sacrifice means: the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

So what is it that is so prized or desirable that we are being asked to sacrifice? Well, everything. Everything we hold dear, our possessions, our relationships, our time, our very lives are what God calls us to sacrifice. 

Jesus said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). 

He’s not talking about hating in the sense that we might think of hating, He’s talking about setting them aside, dying to them and replacing the desire to be with them with a desire to serve God. Obviously we should still love them but not love them in such a way that we put them before the call of God in our lives.

The apostle Paul uses the term ‘living sacrifices’ (Romans 12:1). He wants us to sacrifice ourselves, to surrender our lives, without actually physically dying. So we’re left with this concept of giving everything up but still being alive. What then do we do with our lives?

This is the point I had come to. What do we do? Not what do we talk about doing? What do we DO?

Well, it took a while but, in His time, God started talking to me – and it was like a cascade! If I get the order slightly wrong, then I apologize but it happened something like this:

I don’t remember exactly where it started but at some point, World AIDS Day came along and I in unison with thousands of other bloggers blogged about the AIDS epidemic to raise awareness and, while raising awareness is doing something at least, I felt like I didn’t actually DO anything to combat the spread of AIDS. 

I realized that I was being a voice but not the hands and feet of Christ that God wants us to be.

Then I discovered the 29 Day Giving Challenge, whose origins are irrelevant but whose mission is to ‘revive the giving spirit in the world’.

Let me tell you, that got my mind and heart racing!

Then came Carey Nieuwhof who wrote a post called ‘Why I can’t stand consumer Christianity’ in which he says:

I’m increasingly convinced that church shopping kills disciples.  Pick a church.  Join that mission. Stick with it. Forget what it can do for your family.  Give yourself away. In that, you will find life.

Stop asking what your church can do for you and start asking what you can do for your neighbours and friends and people far from Christ. (emphasis mine)

I recommend visiting his blog and reading the whole article.

Then there were other things, sometimes little things that people were saying or writing, sometimes it was online conversations such as this one, but most of all I believe it was just the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

It comes down to this:

We can only learn to be sacrificial, to die to ourselves, to step outside of human expectations and serve God instead of ourselves by just doing it. We can talk for as long as we like and will never get any closer to our goal because some things can only be learnt by experience, by action, by getting our hands dirty.

We, the church, are supposed to be changing the world. We are supposed to be so different from other people (in a good way) that it makes people stop and wonder why. We’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, we’re supposed to do good to those who hurt us, to love our enemies, to give to people who steal from us. How much of that have you ever done?

So I came up with this challenge. I believe that God gave it to me and that He wants me to share it with everyone He brings to hear/read it:

The Challenge

For 12 days in the run-up to Christmas, will you take the plunge, die to yourself and give sacrificially? Will you sacrifice one thing each day for God?

What we give sacrificially can be any of a whole multitude of things, here are some suggestions:

  1. Our time. Volunteer somewhere for an hour or two – and give up doing something else to do it.
  2. Our pride. Apologize unreservedly to someone with whom you’ve had a falling out. Humble yourself and accept the blame for the situation even if you don’t really think it’s your fault. Die to your pride for the sake of love.
  3. Our food. I can guarantee you that there are people in your town who get to eat less than one meal a day. Find one of them and give them your meal. Miss a meal to feed someone else.
  4. Our possessions. You loved yourself enough to buy it for yourself. Do you love your neighbor enough to give it to them? 
  5. Our money. I’m not talking about what you can put on your credit card, I’m talking about the cash in your pocket that you were going to spend on Starbucks or on a date or on flowers for the house. Sacrifice a purchase for you to give to someone else.
  6. Our…… The list is endless.

Let me ask you this: why not give your big-screen LCD TV to someone else? Can you come up with a reason which is not selfish?

Or this: Why not invite a homeless person into your house for dinner? Are you worried that they might steal something? If so, are you more concerned about your possessions than about the poor and sick and needy?

My guess is that some of you are thinking that you’re coming up to Christmas and there’s no time and no money left to give – but that’s the whole point! Some of you out there will be busy already being sacrificial but most of you will be busy being… busy.

That first Christmas, Jesus took time out from running the entire universe to give the best thing He could possibly give – himself. Are you willing to do the same?

How it works

Here’s my proposal: Take 5 days to prepare. Pray, Pray and Pray some more! Think about what you can do, maybe organize some days when you can volunteer somewhere. Call this week to arrange it so that you can find somewhere that needs you.

Then, starting Saturday 12th December 2008, find a way to give something every day. Open your eyes and your ears and most importantly your heart and see the need that Jesus sees – then meet that need, regardless of the personal cost to you.

One thing I would say is that you should not do anything that is going to hurt you. If you have a medical condition that means you have to eat every however many hours, don’t endanger your health by skipping meals. Remember ‘living sacrifices’ – God is not interested in you killing yourself to give! Be wise, but at the same time, be obedient. If you don’t feel that you have money to give but you are sure that God tells you to give money to someone then take a leap of faith and do it! However, don’t just blindly give money you can’t afford to give without God’s prompting.

Hearing God’s voice is hard but it will be a whole lot easier when you are putting yourself out there and saying “Lord, what can I give today?”.

I’m going to keep a running commentary on my experiences going here on this blog.Why not drop by every now and then and share through comments what God is doing in you and through you.

This will be a life changing experience – are you ready?

If you want some more ideas, visit this post and watch the videos.