Archive | April, 2013

Life Without Limbs

29 Apr

Imagine spending your life without arms or legs.  Who would feed you?  Dress you?  Drive you to work or school?  Fill out the answers when you took a test?  How would you hug someone?  Help someone?  Make a difference?

For most of us, life without limbs would be a nightmare… but for Nick Vujicic, it’s an opportunity.  Born without arms or legs, Nick has learned the hard way what it means to depend upon others… and to trust   in God.  While it would be a lie to say that he’s never struggled with his condition, he’s pretty open about the fact that God has use it both in his life and in the lives of others to make a difference which might not have been possible had he been born just like everyone else.

Since the age of 19, this Australian evangelist has dedicated his life to letting others know that worth and value aren’t derived from being just like everyone else, but from who we are in Christ.  And that God has a plan for each of us, even if it isn’t immediately evident.

Just how impactful is this message?  Visit the Life Without Limbs website to find out!  Take a moment to learn more about Nick and his struggle with a limbless existence then hear Nick talk about the God who made such a difference in his life and share about how that same God can make a difference in yours!

Nick’s primary ministry is public speaking, so take the time to view some of his many video messages.  Listen as he addresses important issues ranging from bullying to the question of where we find our validation as human beings or explore his two minute daily podcast: Life Without Limbs.  Then, partner with Nick as he shares the message of God’s purpose and plan for humanity with others throughout the world.

There’s plenty to see and hear, so take your time.  You’re sure to come away feeling both encouraged and motivated to be the person God created you to be… even if that person doesn’t look just like everyone else!

Foundations for Atheist Morality: The Relativist View Part IV

26 Apr

Last week in “Foundations for Atheist Morality”, we examined the difficulties inherent in using power (physical, numerical, governmental, etc.) to subject the morality of one cohesive society to the opposing morality of another cohesive society.  This week, we will continue our discussion with a look at the difficulty of using “value” to determine which society’s morality ought to be subject to the views of another.  Indeed, if power fails the test when it comes to providing a foundation for the subjection of certain societal groups to one another, value is all that the societal relativist has left. And value is not easy to determine when one holds to a relativist view.

Each individual culture has its own way of determining what does or doesn’t have value.  Is a society with a stable economy, but which is constantly at war to be more desired than a society in which the economy waivers, but peace prevails?  Is a people group who promotes communal sharing, but condemns freedom of speech to be preferred over a society in which the poor go unaided, but a man may speak his mind without fear of reprisal?  To make such determinations, a moral view must be taken… but which?

At its very best, the moral relativist must now face the tricky reality that he becomes a hypocrite if believing that morality truly is relative to and ought to be determined by the majority of the population within an individual society, he continues to try to force other societies to bend to the moral views of his own.  Yet this is his only choice, for he must determine the value of other societies based upon the prevailing morality of his own… or risk being immoral, himself.

This Imperialist view in which one society is arbitrarily deemed “more valuable” than others has, throughout history, led to both the enslavement and, on occasion, annihilation of other “less valuable” cultures.  It has forced millions to sit quietly by as their heritage has been stripped from them and their people dominated or destroyed.  It has led to broken homes and broken lives.  And in order to hold it, the societal relativist must make the decision that one thing, at least, is not relative: that his society is more valuable than all others.

Next week, we will begin to address one final argument against the view of the societal relativist: that the apparent moral view of the majority may not be the actual moral view of the majority.  In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts on this week’s topic below!

Just So You Know

24 Apr

Read: Ephesians 4:1-32

“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.”

1 Corinthians 3:2-3a NIV

 

I picked up the phone and tucked it between my shoulder and my ear as I began sorting the paperwork management had left on our desk.  “Nursery, this is Anna.”

“This is one of your customers.  My name doesn’t matter,” replied the woman on the other end.  (I was rather taken aback by the spy-like response.)  “I was just calling to let you know that I have a bunch of peach trees that are just giving me a bumper crop this year!”

Smiling, I leaned back in my chair.  “I’m glad to hear that.”

“Yes, well, I wanted you to know because years ago, someone out there informed me that peach trees don’t grow from peach seeds.  I wanted you all to know in case you’re laboring under some mistaken idea that they don’t, that they do!”

“Well, yes ma’am, peach trees do grow from peach seeds.”  I frowned, puzzling over which employee could have made such an elementary mistake.

“Well, someone told me that they don’t and I just wanted to make certain that you don’t go on giving out misinformation to your customers.”  With that, she hung up.

I laughed as I returned the phone to the wall, imagining how the conversation might actually have gone:

“I just planted some peach pits and I need to know what I need to do to get them to grow,” my customer could have explained.

“You probably won’t be able to.  It’s difficult to get a peach tree to thrive in our climate and growing one from seed is next to impossible.  Besides, pollination will affect the variety of peach that grows from the seed.  It may not have the same quality as the peach from which it came,” my imaginary employee would have replied, clearly sympathetic, but less than hopeful.

Either way, the question would not have been one of peach trees growing from peach seeds, but of whether it was possible to grow such a tree successfully in our area.  Unfortunately, the Corinthian church wasn’t much different.  Paul had given them clear instructions regarding God’s plan for His people.  But just as my customer had failed to remember her early botany lessons, the Corinthians had failed to recall the Apostle’s spiritual lessons.  Instead of adding virtue to their salvation, they continued in sin… and the Apostle found himself repeating what should have been quite clear.  The problem wasn’t one of understanding how salvation was obtained (through the seeds of faith), but of nurturing it properly as it grew.

Challenge:  Are you nurturing your faith properly?  This week, take time to prayerfully consider how you are (or aren’t) growing in Christ.  Then, commit to creating the proper environment for your faith to thrive!

The Impact of Bible Translation

22 Apr

Erit wasn’t initially interested in Bible translation. “I was a school teacher,” she explained. “I wanted to further my education and get my master’s degree, so I could be a school ad-ministrator.” Erit had already wholeheartedly embraced this thrilling vision when one of the translators of the Bolinao Bible approached her to ask whether she would be willing to do some consultation work on the translation. Erit agreed, and it wasn’t long before the part-time calling became a life-consuming passion. Fluent in both English and Tagalog (a major Philippine language), Erit had read the Bible in both languages and placed her faith in Christ, but reading the text in her own language was illuminating!

It was for others, as well. Erit asked Viola, another Bolinao speaker, to review Revelation. “Viola had always seen it as a scary book, but when she read it in her own language, she saw some-thing different.” Instead of an account of destruction and disaster, Viola now saw Revelation as full of hope: a story of God’s faithfulness to his people even in the midst of great upheavals. It was masam’it nin reng’en (sweet to hear).

To read this article, visit: http://www.wycliffe.net/stories/tabid/67/Default.aspx?id=3708&pg=1

Today, people throughout the world are experiencing the sweetness of God’s Word for them-selves. But this wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated support of people like yourselves!
As of today, I am still a few hundred dollars short of the financial partnership necessary for me to take up my position as a writer with JAARS – composing articles like the one you just read. I currently have until May 1st to develop the remaining partnership or risk losing this opportunity to serve Bible translation with the gifts God has given me.  Please prayerfully consider whether God would have you play a part, then express your interest at: http://www.wycliffe.org/Partnership.aspx?mid=2C51C7

Foundations for Atheist Morality: The Relativist View Part III

19 Apr

In last week’s edition of “Foundations for Atheist Morality”, we explored one of the difficulties with the relativist view that moral right and wrong are determined by what the majority feels will promote unity and cohesion within a given society.  This week, we’ll take a look at what constitutes a society… and some of the sticky situations we encounter when we try to apply the doctrines of societal relativism.

Ask ten people what they think when they hear the word “society” and you’ll likely get ten different definitions.  This isn’t all that surprising when we consider the dictionary definition of society as “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community” or “the community of people living in a particular region and having shared customs, laws, and organizations.”  Families, nations, religious groups, ethnic populations, football teams, and online gaming communities can all be classified as “societies”.  Each has their own governing principles, their hierarchy of power, and standards for living.

If you’ve noticed that some of these societies exist within other societies, you’re on your way to understanding one of the great ethical dilemmas faced by the societal relativist: how do you determine which society takes precedence over the others?  For example, when does the cohesive majority view of a nation dominate the opposing cohesive majority view of an individual ethnic group?  Is it ever right for the predominant religion to override the opposing view of a smaller municipality?  In order to decide which moral rules ought to govern the whole, the societal relativist must appeal either to power or to value as their guiding principle.

In the case of power, the relativist must appeal to the old adage that “might makes right”.  It is the group which possesses the most money, the greatest membership, the strongest governmental pull, or the most firepower which has the right to govern the morality of the society.

One needn’t look far to see the danger inherent in this approach.  History is filled with the stories of those who suffered under the hands of the powerful.  To claim that it is those with the most power who have the right to govern is to accept that slavery, poverty, and abuse are all morally acceptable as long as they are condoned by those who hold power.  Such situations cannot be viewed as unjust… and those who work to change them are themselves immoral for having chosen to labor in opposition to the predominant societal group.

I have known few atheists willing to accept this view, so the societal relativist must now appeal to value if he is to rightfully subject the cohesive views of one society to the governance of the opposing cohesive views of another society.

That’s 30% Off

17 Apr

Read: Matthew 18:7-11

“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”

Romans 14:12-13 KJV

 

My time in retail has afforded me the unique “privilege” of meeting at least a few customers who seem to think that illiteracy is a prerequisite for holding a job as a cashier.  It’s almost as if they assume that since you’re working a minimum wage, blue collar job, you must have dropped out of high school before your junior year.

I’ll admit that it doesn’t take long to grow irritated when an already busy day is punctuated by such customers.  Handing me a clearly marked discount tag, then proceeding to tell me what the tag says isn’t the best way to make a friend… nor is staring at my computer monitor and criticizing every price reduction it displays.

While occasionally, such a customer does catch something that the cashier or the computer missed, more often than not, they succeed only in holding up an already packed line.  I can’t count the times that a customer has complained about product pricing only to discover that the computer (and the cashier operating it) is a better mathematician than they are.  (For example, 30% off an $80 product is not $50!)

It is a strange thing, but often, we as Christians make the same mistake with each other that customers so frequently make with cashiers.  We catch a fellow believer in what we perceive to be a failure (at least by our own calculations) and immediately set about correcting them.

While it isn’t inappropriate to do so, there are times when our calculations are far from correct.  Instead of being a help, we become a hindrance and a source of stumbling for someone who already was following the Spirit’s lead.  Like my customers, we would be better off double checking our “figures” before informing others of their shortcomings.  When we do, we’re sure to be both a help and a friend!

Challenge:  This week, concentrate on removing stumbling blocks rather than erecting them.

 

A Writer’s Impact on Bible Translation

15 Apr

“Translator Lee Bramlett was confident that God had left His mark on the Hdi culture somewhere, but though he searched, he could not find it. Where was the footprint of God in the history or daily life of these Cameroonian people?  What clue had He planted to let the Hdi know Who He was and how He wanted to relate to them?

Then one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”  “Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” “Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?”  Everyone laughed. “Of course not!  If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded. “Do you know what this would mean?  This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on Who I am. I love you because of Me and NOT because of you.”

 

Powerful stories like the one you just read impact lives with a passion for the Gospel.  Each day, they inspire a new generation of believers to dedicate themselves wholly to the vital task of Bible translation. Yet many of these stories would never be told if not for the writers who record the experiences of Wycliffe’s overseas workers.

While serving Bible translation as a writer (especially stateside) is not what one typically envisions as “missions work”, the services of skilled professionals like myself are necessary if Wycliffe is to acquire both the manpower and the financial support necessary to accomplish the vision of ensuring that by 2025, a translation is in progress for every language in need.

No member of the body is less important than the others when it comes to accomplishing this goal!  Romans 10:14 asks, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”  (NASB)  This week, as you pray, please consider whether God would have you (or someone you know) play a role in this task by partnering with me through prayer and financial support.

If God calls you to play this vital role, you can express your intentions at: http://www.wycliffe.org/Partnership.aspx?mid=2C51C7

 

 

Foundations for Atheist Morality: The Relativist View Part II

12 Apr

Last week in “Foundations for Atheist Morality”, we explored the danger of basing one’s morality on public opinion.  This week, we continue our series with a look at the more common view that morality (while relative to individual societies) is rooted in those forms of conduct which lead to cohesion and stability within a given society.

It is hard to deny that there are certain social concepts which seem to transcend the boundaries of individual cultures.  For example Laws against actions like murder, genocide, and slavery exist in many societies.  Such codes generally do promote a cohesive community as they serve to protect the rights of the individual.  These moral rules and regulations often go a long way towards promoting friendly cohabitation in blended societies – those in which members of multiple cultures have drawn together with a common purpose or cause.

Yet there have been many non-blended societies in which the majority of the population has not come to similar conclusions.  Throughout history, we see the stories of cultures which have sought the annihilation or subjugation of rival people groups.  By preventing friendly interaction with these “outsiders”, these societies were able to ensure their own continued safety, dominance and, in many cases, survival.

That this causes a dilemma for the societal relativist is undoubted.  After all, if one is to hold to the view that moral right and wrong are determined according to those practices which promote unity within a society, one must agree that it is not merely acceptable to enslave or even terminate the lives of members of rival groups, but also, at times, morally obligatory to do so! Furthermore, the view that such acts are or were immoral becomes in itself immoral, since it is the minority within the society that hold this view.

It is important to understand this particular implication of societal relativism before we continue.  If views on morality are directly linked to that which the majority feels will promote unity within the society, the societal relativist is in no position to pass moral judgment on the laws of any society at any time!  (This can be particularly difficult for some societal relativists, since it requires them to accept the correctness of the unifying Christian morality which has at times been the predominant view of certain cultures.)

Next week, we’ll delve a bit deeper as we discuss what constitutes a “society” and how our definition of the word can revolutionize our understanding of societally relative morality!

Tulip Elves

10 Apr

Read: Psalm 91:1-16

“For He will give His angels charge concerning you; to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”

Psalm 91:11-12 NASB

It seems that many folks simply don’t enjoy playing in the dirt as much as I do.  They find planting to be the least exciting part of the entire gardening process and are more than ready to hand the task over to any party who seems even vaguely willing to take it on.  For this reason, I wasn’t at all surprised one afternoon when a gentleman came through my line looking for just such a helper.

“You wouldn’t want to come home and plant these for me?” he asked rather hopefully as he plopped several tulip bulb filled paper sacks onto the counter.

“I’m afraid I can’t,” I replied, smiling apologetically. “But I do have good news!  These are special magic tulip bulbs.  If you set them outside overnight, when you come out in the morning, they’ll have planted themselves!”

“You mean the tulip elves come and plant them for you?” the lady behind him asked.

I grinned.  “Exactly!”

While “Tulip Elves”, tiny invisible creatures which sneak in and plant your bulbs in the wee-small hours of the morning are only fanciful beings, there are some invisible beings spoken of in Scripture who work things greatly to our benefit.  These beings are the angels.

Far from being a figment of our imaginations, angels are very real creatures, both ancient and powerful.  While they may not plant our tulips for us, they serve a much more important purpose as God’s servants.  And the good that they do us as His followers is immense.

It is their task to carry out God’s will concerning those who belong to Him and we may rest assured that they are busy watching out for us at all times!  That’s better than a Tulip Elf in anybody’s book!

Challenge: The next time you feel frightened, anxious, or concerned take your problems to God.  He is watching and will send His angels to guard and protect you!

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