Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So Much to be Thankful For...

I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving...

I am going to have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday complete with turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie while almost 1 billion people in the world, that's one out of every seven, live day to day in chronic hunger.

I am going to spend this Thanksgiving holiday in a warm, comfortable home with all the best of modern conveniences when over 2.4 billion people live in poverty which is defined as making less than $2.50 per day. Moreover, 1.2 billion live in absolute poverty meaning they live on less than $1.25 per day.

I am going to take my family and make a relatively short trip to my sister's house to celebrate together with parents, children, brothers and sisters a day set aside to give thanks while 40 million people have fled their homes due to famine, war, or other man made/natural disasters. Nine million of those have fled their homes in Syria seeking shelter wherever they may find it and in many cases losing all contact with whatever family they might have.

Whenever I want a drink of water this weekend, I will simply open a tap in my home and get a glassful not worrying whether it is safe to drink or not while still over 1 billion people in the world lack the simple privilege of clean drinking water.

And I will worship this weekend in a church of my choice (and there are a lot to choose from in middle Tennessee) with no fear of reprisal or persecution while over 90% of the world is lost and almost 6,000 people groups still have little or no access to the gospel.

Thank You, Lord. I am truly blessed. May I never take Your blessings for granted. And, may I be so thankful that I purpose to be a blessing to others.

"For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me."
(Jesus in John 25:35-3)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

When Jesus Walked Past a Need...

Remember the story from Acts 3 about the healing of a lame man by Peter and John? It is about a man, lame from birth, who was carried every day to the temple gate called Beautiful in Jerusalem so that he could beg from those going up to pray. When Peter and John passed by, he asked for help. And Peter along with John looked at him and said, 'I don't have silver or gold, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!' And with that, they took him by the right hand and raised him up and at once, his ankles and feet became strong. He jumped up, stood and started to walk. He entered the temple complex walking, leaping and praising God!

It's a great story, right? But have you ever thought about the fact that if this man sat at the temple gate for every day for all those years, he must have seen Jesus pass once or twice? So the question is why didn't he ask help from Jesus. Or even more disturbing (from my feeble human standpoint) is why didn't Jesus stop and meet the needs of this individual? Surely He has passed him by. Surely He had seen him. And surely, Jesus knew the man's need.

There are several possibilities...

* Maybe Jesus never came near this man. I think this highly unlikely so let's move on to the next theory.

* There seems to be a "seeking" requirement in many of the healings in the New Testament. In other words, those healed are ones seeking Jesus, the power of the Spirit. While not exactly true in every case, generally, most people were seeking answers/healing from God when they were restored to health. So maybe when the lame man saw Jesus the times He passed by, at that time, there was no desire to seek healing and no "readiness" on the part of the lame man.

* It may have been that the lame man didn't really know who Jesus was and what He had to offer. This one is hard to imagine considering how Jesus' fame had spread through the land at the time.

* Maybe it wasn't God's timing for the healing to take place until John and Peter went up to pray. I've shared before that we as humans live bound in "kronos" time whereas God (the maker of "kronos" time) has His own "kairos" timetable. It could be, like the blind man healed in John chapter 9, that the healing took place at God's proper time so that, 'God's works might be displayed in him.'

To be honest, I am not sure why Jesus would have walked by this particular man in need and not stop to help Him. I would assume that there also were many others who were not healed as well though many sought Him. Moreover, just as there were multitudes who still did not believe in Him while He was on earth, there were also throngs who are not healed. Why?

It is a difficult question.

One thing I do know is that when Jesus healed, compassion was always a component of that healing. He was moved for the hurting, the helpless and the homeless. He had a mission for proclaiming in word and in deed that the Kingdom of God had come. He came to seek and to save that which was lost and He came to give abundant life.

In short, I don't know why Jesus may have walked by this particular person in need or even others during His time on earth and not stop. I do know that He and the Father knows best and nothing escaped or will ever escape His notice and that His thoughts and ways are so much higher than mine that I have to trust Him even when I don't understand.

Maybe it is a good lesson for me as I go about helping in international disaster response and community development. Maybe I can alleviate myself of the burden that I have to meet every need I see. Maybe.

"Lord, give me the ability to see and meet needs of those in my path today. Give me also the peace to accept the things I can't do and can't change."


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Would Jesus Do in the Philippines?

By now, everyone of us have seen the pictures, videos and stories coming out of the Philippines and the terrific devastation wrought by super storm Haiyan (Yolanda). Over 4,000 people confirmed dead, several hundred thousand homeless and over 10 million displaced. The race by the Philippines government and international organizations to help is often seemingly a "running in place race" when a disaster of this magnitude occurs. Huge masses of people are suffering and cut off from the basics such as water, food, shelter and health care. And no matter how many resources we pour into the area, especially in these early days, it seems like only a drop in the bucket. It is mind boggling, the overwhelming need, and, if we are not careful, it can lead to a paralysis of action. It is just too massive...

I have a word of encouragement and hope. It is to you (and me) and especially to our BGR teams who are already on ground responding. They have been at it a little over a week and we can already hear the strain in their voices and the frustration of not being able to help everyone.

Here is my word today for you (and me)...

Jesus did not heal crowds, He healed individuals. He had compassion on the masses. He was moved by them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. But in every instance we see in the Bible, He ministered and healed individuals.

As we go about this great and sometimes heavy task of disaster relief and community development, I pray that we don't see the forests so much that we forget to see the trees. I pray that we, like Christ, be moved by the crowds in need but cognizant enough to stop and help the individual and individuals that God brings to us. 

I have prayed for all of us today…especially our BGR team in the Philippines. And I continue to pray that God doesn't let us grow weary in well doing and that God gives us His Spirit and the presence of mind to stop and help the person in front of us.

God, help us to have compassion on those in need and give us the strength to meet the need in front of us today.

If you have some time, please visit our website and see what God is doing through Southern Baptists in the Philippines at:


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our Current Cultural Storm...

"Internal forces are already weakening the tree of evangelicalism in the United States, but in coming decades United States evangelicals will be tested as never before, by the ripping and tearing of external cultural change - a force more violent than many of us suspect." John S. Dickerson in "The Great Evangelical Recession"

There is a storm brewing. In fact, it is already here. We're seeing the first wave of the arrival of the storm but it is going to get worse, by far. It is a cultural wave here in the US that minimizes, trivializes  and even criminalizes Biblical beliefs. It is a wave that embraces life and lifestyles that were unimaginable only a generation ago. It is is here already.

Individuals who stand for Biblical principles feel it. Churches, who may not know it, are already feeling it. Evangelical conventions and denominations are caught up in its swirl and are trying to make sense out of it. But it is here and it pulling downward on our faith, values and things we hold dear.

But I have some good news...

God is on His throne. And He is not unaware. In fact, I have faith that He is at work in all of these things...

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, thought the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!" (Habakkuk 3:17)

"My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God." (Psalm 62:7)

"Look to the nations and observe - be utterly astounded. For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe..." (Habakkuk 1:5)

Whatever may come - the collapse of all values, the marginalization of the church, the oppression of those who stand up for Biblical beliefs - I know that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess. And in that day, we will see...

"...a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb...and they cried out, 'Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Revelation 7:91-10)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Don't Forget Syria...

My heart and soul are disturbed today. I am thinking again about Syria and the ongoing crisis there. I just read some new statistics that not only stirred me but also brought back images of families, real people, whom I visited just a few weeks ago...

There are now over 9 million internally displaces peoples and refugees in and around Syria. That's out of a total population of 22 million. This means that 2 in every 5 Syrians have had to flee their homes and seek shelter and refugee in some other place.

Over one million Syrians have sought refuge in neighboring Lebanon where there are no official Syrian refugee camps. They are living in hovels, tents and temporary shelters; wherever they can find. And they are bracing for yet another oncoming winter. They are dealing with contagious infections like leishmaniasis and scabies on a scale that is unimaginable. They have all experience extreme trauma. I remember the story of one mother who told how her husband was killed right in front of her and her children.

Over 600,000 refugees are in Turkey. Another 600,000 in Jordan. And the list goes on and on...

And we through BGR continue to respond. It only costs $50 to provide a food packet to a family of 5. This food packet helps them get through a month. We also are providing a hygiene kit for $20 that providing essentials such as diapers, candles, matches and personal hygiene items.

Our most recent project with partners there is attempting to get some of the refugee children back in a school setting. Many of the children are entering their third year with no formal education. BGR is helping to provide backpacks full of school materials to children and some needed classroom equipment as well as some assistance to local teachers (who are refugees themselves) to get a few children back in school. The refugee families are so excited that they are opening their makeshift homes to serve as temporary classrooms.

So my heart and soul are disturbed. It is easy to forget. It is easy to turn our heads. My plea is that we don't forget what is happening in Syria.

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes and view this video and then see what God would have you do.


Jeff Palmer