Happy New Year, dear friends.
I trust you and your family had a meaningful and joyful Christmas season, as you celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our family convened in Newport Beach, California, for a wonderful time together. On Christmas Eve, we attended a service at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church and heard a stirring message by the senior pastor, Dr. Richard Kannwischer. He is one of the most articulate and thought-provoking speakers I have heard. He presented the Claims of Christ and the meaning of Christmas that night in a unique and thoughtful way.
Pastor Kannwischer began his sermon with an engaging story, which I want to share with you. Some years ago, rock singer Billy Joel called his nine-year-old daughter in New York to tell her he was sorry, but he wouldn't be able to be with her on Christmas day. He was occupied with important work in Los Angeles, which meant he couldn't be home on that day.
The little girl cried because she wanted to be with her daddy, but she accepted his explanation. Joel then told her that he was sending a special gift, and someone would deliver it to the door on Christmas afternoon. "Okay daddy," she said.
As promised, a deliveryman brought a large package to the porch, rang the bell and left. The little girl opened the door and saw a box wrapped in brightly colored Christmas paper. It had her name on it, so she began tearing into the mysterious package. When she got down to the cardboard and ripped open the box, an arm was thrust out—and then a leg and a foot. Frightened at first, she stepped back to see who or what was coming toward her. Then she recognized her daddy! Joel stepped out and embraced his daughter, who was laughing and crying and jumping for joy. It had to have been one of the most delightful moments of her childhood.1
Dr. Kannwisher then used that touching story to illustrate what our Heavenly Father did for us on the first Christmas morning. He gave us the most precious gift—His only begotten Son—in the form of a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The prophet Isaiah had foretold this coming of the Christ Child more than 700 years before His birth. We read in chapter 9, verse 6, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given."
Mankind has never received such a marvelous gift as this, which was described in the lyrics of a Christmas carol written in 1868 by an Episcopal Priest named Phillips Brooks. He had just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which inspired him to write these words:
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
What powerful lyrics. The gift delivered on that sacred night offered the promise of eternal life to all who would believe in Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. By His crucifixion on a cruel Roman cross 33 years later, and by His resurrection and triumph over death, our sins are forgiven and our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. That is what Christians were celebrating around the world during the joyous sacred season.
I hope you will grant me a little poetic license as I offer another analogy from Billy Joel's story. The contributions many of you made to our ministry, Family Talk, at the end of the year were also unexpected gifts. Let me tell you our story and why your generosity touched our hearts.
I resigned from Focus on the Family on February 26th, 2010, amidst tears and laughter and nostalgia. Leaving the ministry I have loved for 33 years was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but it was the right thing to do.
The following day, February 27, Shirley and I attended the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville to announce the formation of a new ministry, which we called Family Talk. Never in my lifetime has there been such a leap of faith! We began with no staff, no building, no studio, no commitment of radio airtime, no radio co-hosts, no telephones, no computers, no desks, "no nothing." Shirley and I withdrew money from our retirement fund to begin assembling the components of a new organization, but there was no promise of success.
Why did I not just retire and let the world spin on without me? Because I believed the Lord was saying without words, "The institution of the family is collapsing, the definition of marriage is under assault, many parents do not understand the needs of their children, and the culture is sliding farther every year into moral chaos. Don't even think about quitting. There is more work to be done."
The months that followed were arduous and challenging. A total of $7,000.00 was received the first month, which was appreciated but hardly enough to get us started. The ministry rolled out its first broadcast on May 3rd and was carried by 624 radio outlets! With the help of our friends at the Ambassador Agency, we had the largest launch of a new program in history. Nevertheless, very few people knew what we were doing or where to find us. People regularly stopped me on the street to ask how I was enjoying my "retirement," or to say they thought I was still at Focus on the Family. Our mailing list consisted of some personal friends from our Christmas card list. We barely made ends meet through the summer and into the fall because I refused to write hard sell letters asking for money. I have never done that and will not do so now.
Obviously, 2010 was a very difficult year to start a new ministry, with its economic downturn and almost 10 percent unemployment. Starting from scratch at such a time has been a challenge. There have been moments when Shirley and I have gone before the Lord and asked Him to confirm the "call" that had been so distinct in the spring. On every occasion, the answer has been, "Trust Me."
Then came November and December. Your generosity at the end of the year has been very encouraging. I felt at times like Billy Joel's daughter opening a big box and finding a wonderful surprise inside. The contributions you made as we approached the New Year allowed us to end our first eight months in the black. Even more significant have been your letters, calls and emails. They have buoyed our spirits. The word is getting out that we are here, and people are responding positively to our radio program. We are adding new stations month by month, and the ministry is growing. Pass it on!
Ryan Dobson, LuAnne Crane and I serve as co-hosts, and we are enjoying the creative process together. Good things are happening in the studio and the Holy Spirit often seems to be right there with us. So even though these past eight months have been challenging at times, we are grateful for His blessings and for a cadre of friends who have come alongside to help us financially.
To those of you who wrote or called to encourage us, and to those who left a "big box" on our porch at the end of the year (or even a small one), I want to say, "Thank you for your generosity from all of us at Family Talk!" You may never know what your kindness meant.
Now, before I close, let me share one last thought. I hope you are aware that January is Sanctity of Human Life month. We must not forget the tiny babies who continue to be slaughtered at the hands of the abortionists and their supporters. Every child who has died is known by name to our Heavenly Father, and we must do everything we can to protect babies, present and future. President Obama, our federal judiciary, and the majority of our representatives in Congress have fought unrelentingly to preserve the Culture of Death. Fortunately, there is reason to believe that the American people are moving toward a Culture of Life.
The mainstream media has not reported that the national elections in November brought remarkable gains for the pro-life cause. In fact, the vote was a disaster for the abortion industry. According to WorldNetDaily, at least 77 of the 93 freshmen elected to the House of Representatives are pro-life!2 Out of 435 members, only 151 favor abortion. Those who oppose it total 284. Furthermore, the entire leadership of the House is comprised of committed pro-lifers. Let's pray that this majority will have the courage to vote their consciences during the 111th Congress. It is our responsibility to hold them accountable for how they handle the great moral issues of our time.
As reported by WorldNetDaily, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) is introducing legislation to ban federal spending for abortion, and Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) hopes to strip funding from abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood.3 Those bills and others will be supported by the Susan B. Anthony List, Christian Women's Association, and the Family Research Council. Family Talk will also be on the front lines in the preservation of life.
The downside to this matter is that liberals still hold sway in the Senate, (including almost all Democrats and about eight or ten RINO Republicans.) Also, President Obama can be expected to veto any bills to limit or defund abortion. If pro-lifers do nothing more than prevent further damage to the nation's moral values, they will have accomplished a great deal.
Let me remind you that the Sanctity of Human Life Week occurs this year on January 16-23. I hope you will take the time to march or let your voices be heard on behalf of unborn life during this remembrance of the Supreme Court's infamous Roe vs. Wade decision on January 22nd, 1973. Nearly 50 million babies have died in the subsequent 38 years. We will not rest until that holocaust is finally over.
Remember also that the Sanctity of Human Life pertains not only to abortion, but also to euthanasia and imperfect infants born alive and then murdered. Ninety percent of all children with Down syndrome are killed in the womb.4 How tragic. All human life is sacred and must be protected. Regardless of how the wording is stated, whether they are called Death Panels or something less explicit, there are provisions in the new health care law that will limit medical care for older Americans and hasten their passing. We must do what we can to outlaw all such provisions passed or permitted by the three branches of government in the past four decades.
That is my message for this month. Thank you again for standing with us at Family Talk. Together, we can strengthen the institutions of marriage and parenting, and defend the things we believe in the culture at large. That will be a serious challenge in 2011, but with your help we can make a difference. Please contribute when you can.
God's blessings to you as the New Year unfolds. We would sure like to hear from you.
Your friend in Christ,
James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and President
1 Billy Joel story originally found in Max Lucado's Next Door Savior (W Publishing Group, 2003), p. 113
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