Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jayne's Story...

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege along with several of my BGR teammates to visit some homes in the slum areas of Nairobi, Kenya. We were visiting homes of HIV patients and delivering BGR "hospice" buckets.

We visited one home where a fairly young lady lay wasting away due to full blown AIDS. Her elderly mother was caring for her and her two school-aged children. She barely had enough strength to sit up as we came into her home but greeted us with a weak smile. Her smile became even stronger and she even chuckled a bit with joy as one of our BGR team members began opening the bucket and showing her the things that were inside that could help with some of the problems that she was experiencing. The contents of the bucket couldn't change the fact that she was dying but it could give some hope and dignity to her as she struggled with her last days on earth.

Her name is Jayne. And her story if not uncommon. In fact, it is too common. Over 35 million people are living with HIV and to date, about that same number have died from AIDS.

It was obvious her life on earth was not going to be much longer. So as we shared the hospice kit with Jayne and her family, one of our team members asked her if she knew who Jesus was. That was when Jayne really smiled. She had smiled slightly when we came into her home. She smiled a bit more when she saw the bucket filled with hope, but when she heard the Name of her Savior, she literally beamed.

Jayne said, "I want to live to see my children grow up. But I am weak. I am weak but Jesus gives me strength."

We went to that place to minister to Jayne and her family. We came away feeling that we were the recipients of God's blessings.

I don't usually do this in my blog, but I would like to give you a challenge. If you are interested in helping people in need like Jayne, I encourage you to visit our BGR website. You will find more stories about people like Jayne who are in need and are being helped through our efforts at BGR. And you will find opportunities of ways you can help as well.

The weblink is…

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You Never Know What Might Happen...

I just finished once again reading the wonderful story of Esther in the Old Testament. It's a great story of how God uses a young Jewish girl to change the course of history for her people and for pretty much the known world at that time. It is about a young lady who comes to a royal position just in time to save her people from destruction. It is a good story.

But a new thought occurred to me this time through. Looking at the dates of King Xerxes reign (Esther's husband) and the date of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, I thought, isn't it interesting to know that both Ezra and Nehemiah were probably young men or children during the time that Esther was queen of Persia? And, little did Esther know, but her actions possible saved the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah who later became key figures in the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls and reestablishment of the temple and priesthood for Israel? 

So, the thought is: "You never know what might happen." 

Esther struggled with her decision to approach King Xerxes with her request to save the Jewish people. But she did and it set in motion a whole chain of results. I do believe that God could have raise up salvation for the Jews even if Esther had not been obedient in the moment. But she did choose a right course of action and, even though she probably didn't live to see the eventual results, God used her faithfulness in a  mighty way.

What decisions in your life merit standing firm and doing the right thing today? What do you need to go out on a limb for because it is the right thing to do? 

You never know what might happen…But God does.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where Does Success Come From…?

There is a great story in 2 Chronicles 13. As the setting, recently the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah have split into two. Jeroboam is over the north (Israel) and Abijah, son of Rehoboam, is king of Judah. Jeroboam mobilizes Israel for war; over 800,000 choice men. Abijah rallies 400,000 from Judah in battle formation against them. Abijah calls out a challenge and says that Judah will win the war because they are depending on God and have not forsaken Him.

The battle ensues and Judah, by the grace of God, routs Israel and Jeroboam. Even though Judah was well outnumber and outmanned, the victory went to Judah and Abijah. Then the writer of the book makes the conclusion…

"The Judahites succeeded because they depended on the Lord, the God of their ancestors." (2 Chronicles 13:18)

Where does our success come from? Does is come from our natural, inborn talents? Is it a result of our own design and cunning? Is it because you and I have some sort of special favor?

Likewise, where does the success come from for the impoverished, hurting and hopeless families and communities we are called to work with? Does is come from our remarkable ability to lead and inspire people? Does it come from our lofty knowledge of community development techniques and tools? Or is it something else?

As a person called and working with an organization that seeks to help those in poverty, hunger and seemingly hopeless situations, I am always constantly amazed at the small successes that come. And if I am truthful to myself and others, those successes are best realized when I totally depend upon the Lord. They usually are not a part of one of my grand schemes or carefully planned efforts but they seem to come more out of faithfulness than even my best best efforts.

Moreover, when we help a poor family or community have better access to food, a better income, or a better chance at life, we can claim a bit of "success". But when we help a family or community to know and learn to depend upon God, we have a greater chance at not only a temporal but eternal success.

Where does my true success come from? I pray that I succeed today by depending on the Lord.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I Will Never Lift My Hand Against the Lord's Anointed...

You have to love the story of David in the Bible. He is a man after God's own heart but yet shows his humanity in falling for Bathsheba. He is one of the greatest kings ever in Israel's history but starts his career with a band of discontented and disillusioned men. He is the shepherd boy who slays the giant Goliath and yet takes time to compose songs and praises to God.

One of my favorite passages regarding David, however, is when he gets a couple of chances to seize the kingdom of Israel and wrest it from Saul by force. He is (in King Saul's estimation) already more popular than Saul himself but he chooses to flee and even go into hiding with the enemies of Israel instead of taking opportunity into his own hands. During his time of fleeing from Saul, he actually is given at least two chances to strike Saul down. It would have been easy. The nation would have followed him. But in each of these cases, when given the chance to run Saul through with a simple sword thrust, David refused and said…

"I will never do such a thing…I will never lift my hand against him, since he is the Lord's anointed."

I don't know about you but I am one to quickly lean to my own understanding and my own interpretation of things, people and situations. I am fast to evaluate as judge and jury people's characters which actually are subtle ways that I tend to justify my own actions, promote my own goals and place me (at least in my own mind) looking pretty good. I am much slower to look and try to see things, people and situations from God's eyes. I tend to miss the things and people that God has anointed being content to simply interpret from a self-centered perspective.

I wonder what would be if I were to slow down a bit and try to understand before judging? I wonder if there would be times and places that my decisions and judgements would be altered if I believed that God had anointed that particular moment, place or person? I wonder how many "Sauls" I have put to death when God had grand designs and plans for accomplishing a greater purpose?

More importantly, I wonder what God could have or would have done through me if I had at critical times refused to lift my hand against His anointing, simply trusting Him in confusing situations that I could not understand?

God is in control. Let me say it again (more for my sake than yours). God is in control…in everything.

"I will not (and dare not) lift my hand against the Lord's anointed."


Thursday, January 23, 2014

In 1948, The United Nations Said This...

At the infancy of the United Nations, the group came together and made a declaration of what it saw as universal human rights. Now whether you or I agree or track with the current UN leadership, I thought that the original thoughts/intent of the UN bore sharing. Basically, the six rights were…

1. Life is better than death
2. Health is better than sickness
3. Liberty is better than slavery
4. Prosperity is better than poverty
5. Education is better than ignorance
6. Justice is better than injustice

Not bad. In fact, I could get behind an organization that would live by/promote these very issues. Too bad that time changes things, people and values change and cultures drift.

What if we took those six items above and applied them to say an evangelical Christian "spiritual" declaration of human rights? We of course would acknowledge that the greatest right (as well as privilege) is to know our Creator God through His infinite mercy/wisdom in His One and Only Son, Jesus. Along with this we would declare…

1. Life is better than death…and He came that we might live life and live it more abundantly.
2. Health is better than sickness…for we are to fear the Lord, turn away from evil so that healing will find our bodies and strength given to our bones.
3. Liberty is better than slavery…and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
4. Prosperity is better than poverty…He has set before us a choice of life and prosperity over death and disaster.
5. Education is better than ignorance…but the Counselor, the Holy Sprit will teach you all things.
6. Justice is better than injustice…and what is it the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness and walk humbly with your God.

Maybe I have to rethink my opinion of the UN. Or maybe I have to think of the UN in a Kingdom perspective. 

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What to make of wealth...

I took this past year to read several books on development (e.g. wealth and poverty of nations) and mainly those from an economic model background. I re-read Adam Smith's 1776 classic, "An Iquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of the Nations." I also re-read David Lande's excellent book, "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations". I then read a book recommended to me written by Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem, "The Poverty of Nations."

In this last one, I ran across a chart cited from Lawrence Harrison (a purporter of socio-cultural causes for development/lack of development). It showed the standard measure of wealth (Gross Domestic Product or GDP) per major faith and religious backgrounds. The chart showed the following:

Religious Background to Culture of Nations Per Capita GDP (Annual)

1. Protestant - $29,784
2. Jewish - $19,320
3. Roman Catholic - $9,358
4. Orthodox - $7,045
5. Confucian - $6,691
6. Buddhist -  $4,813
7. Islamic - $3,142
8. Hindu - $2,390

What does this mean? Some would use this to show the wisdom and practicality of living life according to God's mandates thus resulting in His blessings. Others might be tempted to use this as an illustration that the prosperity gospel works. I think Harris (the original compiler of the info) would point to the social-cultural values (e.g. hard work, honesty, fairness, etc.) underlying Christian/Biblical teachings and their resulting effects on a particular group.

I think that we should look at it from a different angle. I propose that we don't look at it and try to dissect it to the point of prescribing a formula to wealth or blessings. While I do believe deeply that God's plan for life as revealed in His scriptures does carry subsequent blessings, I think the main point here is not how we got there (or tell other how to get to financial welfare) but what do we do with what God has blessed us with.

If God has blessed me (and He has a million times over) because I have committed my life to Him and His principles for life, the main question is, "what am I going to do with that blessing?"

Abraham in Genesis 12 was told that he was to be blessed by God and then that blessing, through him, would become a blessing to all the nations.

God' way and plan for life is by far the best. God's blessings on His children are amazing. But if that blessing stops with us, we miss the point.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year...And Remembering...

Regina and I took down the Christmas decorations yesterday, New Years Day. It always seems to be a lot more fun to put them up rather than take them down. Especially the Christmas tree with the seemingly thousands of ornaments. However, what started out as a necessary chore became a rather fun time and walk down memory lane.

Our tree, most likely probably like yours as well, is filled with ornaments that have a history and a story. As we took each off, we began telling remembering where each of the ornaments had come from and its story. Some had very little significance. Others are a part of our family lore.

There is the one that Regina got for me when we had just started dating. It is a little tarnished but still in good shape and stamped with the date of the first year that we knew each other.

There were the ones that we had of the children when they were smaller. They were pictures of when they were smaller. It seemed like they should still be those very ages.

There were those who had been sent to us by friends through the years. We lived overseas for more than twenty years and each year, it seems that someone or some church group would send us a special ornament. It was nice to see those and remember where we were and who sent them.

Then there was the Christmas nail. It is one we hang near the trunk of the tree and is a family tradition. It is a simple 10 inch nail that reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us and the true meaning of Christmas. 

As we start the New Year 2014, we have a lot to look forward to. But we also have a lot to remember and be thankful for. I am thankful for God's blessings through Jesus Christ in my life, family and ministry. I am also thankful for the wonderful partners and friends who help to make our work through BGR possible. 

I look forward to this new year - the challenges and the blessings - and the memories of what God will accomplish through our work.


Jeff Palmer