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